Basho's thoughts on...
• The Femalism of Basho

• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Tsukeku 芭蕉付句
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694
matsuo
The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com

 



Home  >  Topics  >  The Femalism of Basho  >  L-09


Long Black Hair

The Beauty and Power in Women's Hair

Legend:
Words of Basho in bold
Words of other poets not bold

"I love my hair because it’s a reflection of my soul  -  Tracee Ellis Ross 

 

Fascination with women’s hair enriches Japanese literature from ancient until modern times as in this tanka from the Manyoshu, the most ancient collection of Japanese poetry:


Leaving behind
the wife who loves me
she spreads out
black hair to sleep on
as long as the night

 

She lies down on her hair, mingling her body with strands as slender and silky as she is.


In the early 11th century Tale of Genji the young prince describes the 9 year old girl who will become his wife, now with her grandmother who is a nun.


Rich hair spread over her shoulders like a fan. . .
The hair that fell over her forehead was thick
and lustrous...The nun stroked the girl’s hair.
“You will not comb it and still it’s so pretty”. . .

 

In her Pillow Book of the same era, Sei Shonagon observes a moment we still see today in girls and young women:


“A girl’s hair has been cut to shoulder length: the hair falls before her eyes
but instead of brushing back, she holds her head to one side to look at something.”

 

Basho invested as much attention into the feminine glory of hair as did his forebears.

 

Gradually
helped to sit up, she
combs her hair
Cat fondly caressed
by the one I adore
To stop blossoms
from falling, if only
there was a way

 

Youyou to / kaki-okosarete / kami kezuri

Neko kawaigaru / hito zo koi shiki

Ano hana no / chiranu kufuu ga / aru naraba

 

(BRZ 9: 180) Sick and lying down she could not comb her long hair properly; now recovering, with my help, she sits up and runs the comb down the full length, power returning to her body. Lying down she also

could not hold her cat on her lap; now watching her caress the silky fur of this small living creature, soon after she was close to death, makes me love her all the more.


The joy of reading linked verse is to see how Yaba takes Basho’s image of  a comb flowing through long straight hair and transforms that image to a girl’s hands petting the full length of a furry beloved cat. The poetry of sensation. Then watch how Basho further transforms Yaba’s imagery. To keep the young, loving, and sensual from growing old, bitter, and regretful, if only there was a way.


Wrapping rice cake
with one hand she tucks
hair behind ear

 

Chimaki yuu / katate ni hasamu / hitai-gami

 

(Kon 704) A woman preparing sweets for the children bends over a bucket of rice dough, forms into cones, wraps with bamboo grass, and ties with a strip of rush. Some long hair loose from the band in back has fallen before her face. Her fingers and palms coated with residue, without thinking or breaking her stride, she reaches up with the clean surface on the side of her hand above thumb and forefinger to tuck hair behind her ear – with nothing getting on her hair.


In every land and every time where hair is worn long, we see this exquisite motion of the hand around the ear. ”This is Basho’s Mona Lisa, his most graceful hidden woman. Only Basho has the delicacy and precision to draw such a moment out from the flow of a woman’s everyday life.


This haiku demonstrates four characteristics of Basho’s female-centric poetry:


1) Pure observation – without abstraction, judgment, philosophy, or religion – only physical observation

2) Focuses on a women by herself, with no male presence.

3) Highlights her body parts: hand, hair, ear

4) Focuses on her activity, expressed in lively active verbs:“wrapping” and “tucks.” Some translators say “pushes her hair back,” but hasamu, “tucks (between head and ear)” is more specific, precise and delicate.

 

Pulled awake
to see the full moon
in her shame
Hair fanned by maids,
dew on her thin robe

 

Tsukimi yo to / hiki-okosarete / hazukashiki

Kami aogasuru / usumono no tsuyu

 

(BRZ 6:74) A teenage girl pulled from bed by someone enthusiastic to show her the Moon is embarrassed to be seen in her nightgown with no preparation of face, hair, and clothing; she really does not want anyone to

notice her emerging sexuality in the moonlight. Haruo Shirane notes the “soft erotic mood” of this stanza.

Basho sees this flustered and ashamed girl grow up into a mature self-assured lady. Her maids wave folding fans at her mass of thick black hair to push away the summer heat, suggesting her nobility (like Cleopatra’s maids fanning her hair). The “dew on her thin robe” makes the robe transparent, revealing her entire body as naked as the moon, yet not at all ashamed. Shirane says “the connotations of the previous verse and

the added verse ‘reflect’ upon each other, thereby deepening the connotations of both” The link between the two stanzas is the process of female development through which bashful girl becomes sensual woman.

 

Izumi Shikibu, in the 11th century, wrote of being alone, without him, the turmoil scattering her hair:


I know not the
tangles in my black hair
while I lie here
yearning for the one
who used to stroke it

 

 

Wretched in the dew
my wife’s fallen hair
Speaking of love,
in the mirror her face
still I can see

 

Tsuyu ni shigaramu / imo ga ochi-gami

Mono iute / kagami ni kao no / nokori mieyo

 

(BRZ 2: 221) “Fallen hair” means the wife (like a tree) has died – for her hair (like leaves) contains her (the tree’s) life force. Each word carries double or triple overlapping meanings. “Dew” (or tears) is the wetness (the emotions) that rusts, corrodes, and wears out all things. She looked in the mirror (the Sun Goddess) so often it retains a copy of her face – or maybe the husband and wife were so in tune that their faces came to resemble each other. Themes of ancient poetry merge with intimate personal experience.

 

From last year’s battle
bones bleached white
On her day off
the wife escorted home
in falling rain
The fragrance of mist
as she washes her hair

 

Kozo no ikusa no / hone wa nozarashi

Yabu iru no / yome ya okuramu / kyō no ame

Kasumu nioi no / kami arau koro

 

(BRZ 6: 222) Months have passed since the great battle, and the bones of warriors picked clean by scavengers and exposed to weather lay white on the ground. Basho adds to this scary and upsetting scene a married woman servant on a day off from work, walking back to her native home. She could not pass the battlefield alone, especially in the gloomy rain, so another person walks with her to calm her spirit.

The first thing she does upon arriving is wash the bad vibes from her hair – the hair which contains her life-force. Feel the tactile link between rain falling on hair and water washing hair, then breathe in that smell of thick wet hair, as in beauty parlors, like the smell of mist. The poetry of sensation.

 

In Hair Symbolism in Japanese Popular Religion, Gary Ebersole emphasizes the correlation in the Japanese mind between straight orderly hair and a straight orderly mind, between messy hair and an upset heart, as in this classical tanka which I translate:


Awakening
with my hair disheveled
as my thoughts
longing for the daughter
I saw in a dream

 

The daughter who died has appeared in the dream, as if she were alive. To see her back from the dead has upset her mother’s ki, energy, spreading out from brain into hair.


Not getting up
I recognize his smell
and am afraid
Wiping away the sweat
from hair in dissaray

 

Oki mo sede / kiki-shiru nioi /osoroshiki

Midareshi kami no / ase nugui iru

 

(BRZ 4: 359) As he enters the room, she recognizes his putrid odor, recalling other times he has used her. She does not get up to greet him; rather she cowers on the futon steeling herself for what is to come. We feel the ominous approach of this man she fears.

 

Basho suggests what happened between the two stanzas: the activity and sweat and sound of violent sex in the hot moist Japanese summer without air conditioning, sex aggressive enough to mess up her hair (and the rest of her). She sits on the futon, neither screaming nor weeping, but rather sliding her fingers down the hair beside her face to wipe off sweat and straighten the strands, drawing power from her hair to recover from her ordeal. He is gross and cruel, while she is sensitive and dignified. She is stronger than he is: she has more endurance.


Lies so cold
in words hard as nails,
weary of waiting
With her sleeve she sweeps
dew from her forelocks

 

Uso samuki / kotoba no kugi ni / machi bouke

Sode ni kanaguru / maegami no tsuyu

 

(BRZ 9: 277; written five years after WIPING AWAY THE SWEAT)  A woman waits for a man who made clear definite promises – “hard as nails” – but it was all a cold and heartless lie. She can wait here forever; he does not care. Dew” means “tears” but also impermanence and disappointment, wearing out and decaying all things, both living and non-living, so the young grow old and bitter. She sweeps her forelocks with her arm to wipe away the heaviness; again and again Basho focuses on woman’s active and decisive motion

 

Comes a dream
of woman cutting her
jet black hair
Love seen through, moon
over morning glories

 

Ubatama no / kami kiru onna / yume ni kite

Koi o miyaburu / asagao no tsuki

(BRZ 3: 310) “A dream comes” suggests that that this dream is a “sending,”

a dream sent to a man by a woman’s spirit. Apparently he disappointed her

in love, so she has cut her hair and is telling him this in her sending. The

traditional way to interpret “cutting her hair” is as “becoming a nun” –

although Shoko says “not necessarily.” She explains that in Japan, women

cut a number of strands as a declaration of giving up the past to move into

a new future. Basho makes this woman see through the false love she

thought was real, realizing that such love disappears as surely as the moon

fades into the morning sky and gorgeous blue morning glories wilt to

become refuse in the rain.

With only a whisper

hair dresser departs

In dyer’s shop

all sorts of material

scattered about

Tada sasayaite / deru kami yui

tori dori ni / kouya no kata o / tori chirasu

(BRZ 7: 35) A hair dresser has come to the shop hoping to be hired, but

sees that this is not a good time.

79

She says nothing, but only whispers “Sorry for intruding” as she walks out.

The next poet tells the kind of shop it is, and what the hair dresser saw so

that she decided to leave without offering her services. All those

various-colored materials scattered about suggests the messy hair that

requires a hair dresser.

Yosano Akiko, 200 years after Basho, wrote: :

That girl at twentyher

black hair ripples

through the comb

in the pride of spring

so very beautiful!

On the young wife’s head

Chinese Rings were gentle

As a keepsake

some fabric from a bag

getting faint

Imo ga kashira no / karawa yasashiki

Katamite chou / fukuro no kire no / hatsu hatsu ni

(BRZ 4: 209) The elegant and charming “Chinese rings” hairstyle –four

rings rising from the head –worn “gently” by the young wife suggests a

marriage beginning with hope for the future. We leap ahead many decades,

to some fabric that was part of a bag, something that used to be important,

so I kept it, but I can no longer remember, everything getting faint, drifting

away –yet those Chinese Rings on her head so long ago remain clear in my

mind.

80

A warm wind

swaying side to side

willow hair

Achi kochi ya / men men sabaki / yanagi-gami

(Kon 26) Basho in 1667, now just about 23 years old, sees the long slender

flexible willow branches hang to the ground, swaying in the east wind

which brings spring to Japan, as a woman’s hair sways around her body

while she walks. The hair is a reflection of her soul.

Rose of Sharon –

a naked little child’s

hair ornament

Hana mukuge / hadaki warabe no / kazashi kana

(Kon 108) The hibiscus syriacus, called a rose of Sharon, is common in

Japan as well as in South Korea where it is the national flower. They grow

wild on an old wall or fence, blooming in early autumn, large trumpet

shaped flowers, usually pink with prominent yellow-tipped white stamens,

a fine ornament for the hair of a tiny peasant girl naked in August heat. She

stands there innocent and charming, the ideal human form: she carries the

future of humanity. Shoko, with daughters this age, sees “an expression of

the warmth in Basho’s heart.”

81

Hair mussed

by the child I carry

in this heat

Basho’s woman followers Sonome explores the hot sweaty reality of

motherhood in the sultry Japanese summer, Japanese babies look at the

back of mother’s neck, her nape, for hours a day; it is well-known for its

erotic appeal to Japanese men. Sonome wrote another haiku about her nape

The coolness

almost to my collar

bun of hair

The small ordinary sensations in woman’s life, the coolness that enters

between collar and hair bun. Because in Japan the nape is erotic, the verse

has a sensual side, although for a woman with a hair bun, it is an

everyday-in-summer experience. More of Sonome’s poetry appears in

Topic 19.

Still their hair

untied, they go forth

to plant rice

Chiyo-jo writes of young women who have no time to straighten their hair,

or their robes – walking bare-footed into the paddy, chatting and calling out

to each other, grimacing and laughing as the mud squishes between their

toes. Forming a long straight line, they stoop over and move backwards,

inserting each bundle of three green shoots a few inches into the mud.

The abundance of thick, loose, black hair suggests the fertility of both

women and muddy field.

82

Basho’s mom died in 1683 while he was in Fukagawa. The next year he

returned to Iga to visit her grave

Without a word my brother opens an amulet case.

“Pray to this lock of mother’s white hair.”

Held in hand to melt

in the heat of my tears –

autumn frost

Te ni toraba kien / namida zo atsuki / aki no shimo

(Kon 201) In autumn, frost forms only early in the morning; a harbinger of

winter to come. Basho weaves together human emotion and seasonal

awareness in a ‘sketch’ of a few strands of white hair on his palm.

Ten years later he again came here for the O-bon Festival:

The whole family

white-haired and on canes

visits the graves

Ie wa mina / tsue ni shiroga no /haka mairi

(Kon 892) The dead are buried in family plots near the ancestral home. On

the first day of the O-Bon Festival, the whole family goes to the cemetery

and with lanterns and torches escorts the spirits home. The middle segment

sums up the nature of growing old: white hair and osteoporosis.

83

For O-bon, lanterns represent the spirits of the dead, and also light the way

for spirits crossing the boundary to return to the living world.

In the moonlight

among O-Bon lanterns,

time to weep

Autumn wind more slender

than strands of her hair

Tsukiyo ni / tourou haite / naki kurashi

kami suji yori mo / hosoki aki kaze

(BRZ 7: 50) She cries for one whose spirit has come back, while the wind

penetrates to the depths of her heart.

This morning I found

a strand of white hair

Year after year

lined up under blossoms

number of friends

Kami no shiraga o / kesa mitsuketari

Toshi-doshi no / hana ni narabishi / tomo no kazu

(BRZ 7: 267) One white strand amidst the multitude of black reveals her

middle age is past. A number of years, of cherry blossom picnics, of cherry

petals, and of friends – however while white strands increase, the friends

shall decrease.

 

84

 


 

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com 






<< Marriage For Women (L-08) (L-10 ) Her Face >>


The Three Thirds of Basho

 

 

I plead for your help in finding a person or group to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material, to edit and improve the presentation, to receive all royalties from sales, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide and preserve for future generations.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com
Basho's thoughts on...
• The Femalism of Basho

• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Tsukeku 芭蕉付句
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694
basho
The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com

 





basho