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-05


Music, Song, and Dance :

Women Playing, Singing, Listening to Rhythm, Melody, and Voice

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

"I know I'm stronger in the songs than I really am. Sometimes I need to hear it myself.  We all need to hear those empowering songs to remind us."  Beyonce. Basho reminds us of this in 15 verses.  

 

Music, Song, and Dance

 

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make a living
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven

 

O-hari shite / aki mo inochi no / o o tsunagi

koto hiki musume yattsu ni narikeru

 

This woman has enough work sewing before winter comes. She may “make ends meet” in autumn, but has

to survive the rest of the year. Into this poor struggling home, Basho introduces a daughter and a koto,

or 13-string harp, an instrument of refinement ordinarily played by women. Notice the link between the form of needlework and the strings and frets on the harp. Both stanzas convey the diligence and constant effort of the female, the action of her hands producing order, rhythm, and beauty.


The daughter plays her mother’s koto here and now - and also plays it through the months, years, decades

of practice required to master the instrument. (The Japanese says yattsu which means "eight" however the

Japanese counted birth as age one, so I subtract one year from all ages given.) Basho praises the young girl in the early stages of her discipline. Many students of child development note the onset of a new stage at age seven.

 

Author Leonard Shlain, in Sex. Time, and Power, says,

 

The Catholic Church considers seven to be the age of moral understanding and uses it at the milestone for when a child can receive first communion. Confucian followers believe seven is the age of the beginning of wisdom. Many other cultures have used this age at a dividing line between innocence and the beginnings of a mature mind.


According to the site Education.com,

 

“From age seven toten, “the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain which control cognitive functions, grow enormously – more than at any other time in a person’s life. And at the same time, these lobes are making neural connections with the system that controls emotions. In other words, both thinking and feeling get a major overhaul starting at age seven.”

 

Since the frontal lobes initiate purposeful action, from age seven a child’s face takes on a clarity of purpose

absent in small children.

 

For Basho, in the 17th century, to specify age seven is astonishing; the sociological data brings profound depths to Basho’s stanza. We imagine the pride the hard-working mother feels hearing her daughter

produce such beauty. With utmost subtlety and grace, through the powerful effect music has on the brain,

Basho portrays the bond between mother and daughter, the hope for a better future that the growing and learning girl evokes in her mother, hope rising on the lovely notes emerging from her seven-year-old fingers on the harp.

 

Heavenly feather robe
airing in the hot season
Cloak discarded
in mountains of Yoshino
cicada’s harp

 

Geni doyō nari / ama no hane-goromo

Utsusemi mo / yoshino no yama ni/ koto hikite

 

In the Noh play The Feather Maiden a celestial maiden removes her feather robe and, while she bathes in a clear stream, hangs it on a tree. The first poet switches to the clothing ordinary people hang out on a line to air in the heat. Basho continues with imagery of both hot season and women, and adds sound and music.

The juvenile cicada sheds its skin – or “exoskelton” or “shell” – in summer to emerge as an adult; the utsusemi, or abandoned skin, remains, on the bark of the tree. Utsusemi, in the Tale of Genji, is a woman who resisted Genji’s romantic advances; one night he tried to force himself on her, but she escaped, leaving her outer robe behind in his grasp, giving her the name she is known by. The Yoshino Mountains are far enough from Kyoto that she can play her koto in peace without Genji bothering her. The mountain trees are full of countless adult male cicadas making their “cries” by rapidly vibrating abdominal membranes; the sound goes on and on all day long in the heat of summer, driving some people crazy, while Basho compares them to the streaming, expanding notes of a koto.

 

Consider the following haiku a riddle – a riddle that encourages us to appreciate the power in musical notes

to move us: to ride the sound to an effect.

 

Blossoms fall—
the bird was surprised
dust on the harp

 

散る花や / 鳥も驚く / 琴の塵

Chiru hana ya / tori mo odoroku / koto no chiri

 

A proverb says “beautiful music can moveb dust.” The tones from the koto rise to the roof and startle a bird

sitting on the exposed beams, so the bird dislodges some dust which falls—like cherry petals fluttering down – onto the harp and the woman playing it. Although never mentioned, she is central to the verse: she makes the music and she notices the dust.


Living alone
an old worn out mallet
with white hair
The outcome of regret
koto case is empty

 

(8: 305) After years of disappointment by fickle men, she is just an old mallet (a symbol for women who do

repetitive work) with white hair. The case for a standard koto is about the size and shape for a woman. This case used to contain the beauty and harmony of music; now it contains nothing but memories of regret.

 

The Tale of Genji, written by a woman early in 11th century, is not only the world’s first novel, but the most

extensive study of female psychology in ancient literature; it really should be called The Tale of Genji’s

Women. The main female character, Murasaki, is introduced at age nine, and even so young, she has

a character full of diversity worthy of attention. The following translations are by Edward Seidensticker:


She had already taken out her dolls and was busy seeing to their needs. All manner of furnishings and accessories were laid out on a yard-high shelf. Dollhouses threatened to overflow the room. “You must try to be just a little more grown up.” said her nurse.“ Nine years old, no, even more, and still you play with dolls. It will not do. . .Why you fly into a tantrum even when we try to brush your hair.”

 

She played the koto for him, briefly and very competently. He thought her delightful as she leaned forward to press a string with her left hand. He took
out a flute and she had a music lesson. Very quick, she could repeat a difficult melody after but a single hearing.

 

A unique moment in world literature, this praise for the sensory-motor-musical intelligence of a young girl

not even ten: she plays with dolls but also can listen to a difficult melody one time on one musical instrument and reproduce it on a completely different instrument. Little Miss Mozart.

 

Each theme in the passages from the Genji appears in the following trio: the young girl’s beauty and charm,

long hair and difficulty combing it, age and maturity, her doll play along with her skill on a stringed instrument.


Water forbidden
black hair’s distress 
At her age
still caring for dolls
she is lovely
Harp held in her hands
heavy upon her lap

 

Mizu yurusarenu / kuro kami zo uki

Mada hina o / itawaru toshi no / utsukushiku

Kakaeshi koto no / hiza ya omotaki

 

Sick for many days, forbidden to wet her hair because this might bring on more sickness: so it has grown

tangled and messy and passing a comb through it is painful: young girls today may appreciate her hair’s

“distress.” In spite of what Murasaki’s nurse says, the girl continues to lavish her affection on dolls – developing her consciousness and skills for caring for babies. From Sukan’s ideal of loveliness, Basho jumps into body sensation; she hugs it on her lap as she would a doll or a baby. His words – heavy in weight… hold in hands…lap –all so physical and intimate, recall the physicalness of Young Murasaki “leaning forward to press a string with her left hand.”

 

The Japanese for the previous trio does not distinguish present and past tenses. The next poet changed Basho’s child holding a harp to an old woman who held a harp when she was a court lady decades ago.


Harp held in her hands
heavy upon her lap
Even as dreams
in a snooze, no memories
of being at court

 

Kakaeshi koto no / hiza ya omotaki

Utatane no / yume sae utoki / gosho no naka

 

She drifts away in a snooze, yet her dreams contain no memories of her years of service to the Empress –all that remains in her addled mind is the body-memory of the harp resting on her lap as she sat on her heels. So the poets play with and transform music, sensations through time.


Giving breast
to baby, something
she must say:
“Leaving thoughts behind,
Papa sent far away”
Strumming lute
from evening, she cries
till daybreak

 

Ochi soite / wakau ni mono ya / ii neramu

Omoi nokoseru / tō no kunigae

Biwa hiite / konya ni naite / akasu beki

 

The first two poets speak of a woman, of the love between the couple, the sadness of him being

transferred to a distant place, then Basho adds the melancholy notes of the lute together with her

distraught sobbing, from evening till sunrise.

 

His meaning hidden
she stands there listening
Above lantern
appears her pale white
complexion
Upon tatami the lute
put down with a thud

 

Kakusu tayori o / tachinagara kiku

Andon no / shita yori shiroki / hitai tsuki

Tatami ni biwa o / dotsukari to oku

 

As she lifts up her lantern to better see the man who hides his thoughts, her face turns white with the

realization of his dishonesty. She plays a sad piece on her lute, then puts down the instrument on the tatami mat. Ordinarily she would do this with no sound, however in her frustration she momentarily loses her gracefulness. From ethereal face above lantern, Basho creates a solid, distinct sound: thud, containing her disappointment.

 

The following stanza appears in Topic 1: Power of Women with its previous stanza; here it is alone, to focus on the musical meaning:


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus

 

Yurusarete / onna no naka no / ondō tori


(7: 257) Femalist interpretation: From the weakness of the lone woman, Basho switches to a chorus of women allowing one woman to lead them, so their sound goes far. May Basho’s stanza – with or without the previous stanza – become an anthem for women’s choral groups as well as social and political groups led by women.


Patriarchal interpretation: the one “among women allowed to lead them” is a man (and yes, many female

choral groups are led by men). Instead of deriving their power from solidarity with other women, these women derive power from their male leader. Male scholars assume Basho followed his society’s

patriarchy, but I believe he separated from those assumptions to pioneer his own path of focusing on

women as central and iconic. 

 

Japanese tradition has teenage girls and young unmarried women transplanted rice-seedlings to the paddy mud, their fertility believed to magically transfer to the paddy. As they worked together, the women sang songs to the divine spirits:

Refinement's
origins, in the heartlands
rice-planting songs

 

Fuuryuu no / hajime ya oku no / taue uta

 

In these songs Basho hears - he rides the sounds -- to the origins of “refinement” -- which means “poetry” as well as all of culture that refines us to a higher state. Here is a rice planting song from Iwate-ken in the Deep North.


One shoot becomes a thousand,
in autumn we reap the tax
and when we reap the tax,
Master can take a woman.


Planting and planting more
makes my lower back hurt,
how I wish to quit this job,
Gods of the Rice Field.

 

Rice produces more harvest per seed than other grains. The rice tax was rent paid to the daimyo who owns this province, 40 - 60% of the rice taken each year right after harvest. During harvest, the “Master” skims off some wealth to use for his private pleasure. The woman works hour after hour in the hot, bug-infested fields so the man can enjoy being with a woman who never works in the hot, bug-infested fields. This is patriarchy.

 

Imo are ‘tubers’, the thickened starchy underground section of the plant. Because tubers (a) provide much

nutrition from ground too poor for other crops, (b) underground are protected from storms, and (c) can be

stored for months without spoiling, tubers keep people alive during famine. Sato-imo, or taro, were the

“village-tuber” – the stable food of peasants – in Japan as well as in much of the South Pacific (in Hawaii, kalo, the ingredient for poi). The song Imo Arau, “Washing Taro,” found in a 1578 songbook, is far older than Basho:


A taro and a taro!
Which one is preferred? Which one is preferred?
Rain beats on the clumps of ground.
Tiny taro are preferred. Tiny taro are preferred.
The nice round ones. The nice round ones.
Round like the 15th night moon.
Round like the 15th night moon.
My husband has gone to the Capital.
My husband has gone to the Capital.
He shall do no wrong. He shall do no wrong.

 

The speaker is a woman washing taro. She begins with a simple counting rhythm, similar to “one-potato,

two-potato…” but also meaning “Does he have a mistress in the Capital and which one of us will he

prefer?” Taro are traditionally harvested on the day of the harvest moon, the 15th of the 8th Moon. ‘Round’

refers to the shape of taro, of the full moon,and of certain parts of a woman’s body (“Tiny taro are preferred”). Basho wrote:

 

Women 'Washing Taro'
if Saigyo could be here,
would sing the song

 

Imo arau onna / Saigyou naraba / uta yoman

 

In the river village women wash the dirt from the tuber taro. We see and feel their slender hands holding the

variously shaped taro in the flowing stream. Either they sing the song Washing Taro to the famous 12th

century poet Saigyo, or he sings to them, of the reality of marriage in Japan: she works hard every day, feeding herself and the children on staple foods like taro while he goes wherever husbands go, eating fancy foods in restaurants and enjoying pleasures he cannot find at home.


Breaking off a lotus
to adorn a lovely girl
Iridescent
kingfisher alights
on dance stage

 

Renge o orite / bijo ni kanzasu

Ayadori no / hisui mushiro ni / ochiru ka to

 

(BRZ 3: 51) The kingfisher is known for its bright sky-blue plumage. The BRZ calls this tsukeku “an

expression of the elegance of classical Chinese poetry.”

 

With the harvest moon
geisha at barrier gate
So fascinating
her dance, autumn night
not long enough

 

Geisha o tomuru / meigetsu no seki

Omoshirosa no / yuujo no aki no / yo sugaraya

 

The geisha, a classical dancer, performs her art at a harvest moon festival at a provincial barrier gate. Even as the autumn nights grow long, but no matter how long this autumn night is, this geisha fills it the glory of her performance.   I suppose few of us find this a superior tsukeku, however it does illustrate Basho's femalism and praise for the woman. 

 

Quietly descending
hand of the dancer
More than appears
a small child is obedient
to the Energy

 

Ito mo shizuka na / mai no te kudari

Mikake yori / ki wa otonashiki / ko chigo nite

 

(1: 31) Sengin offers an elegant image of Japanese classical dance performed by a woman, an image we can

see this in the dance of any people on Earth, as well as in the slow meditative movements of tai chi.

 

The movement of the hand expresses more, much more, than simply getting from up to down; it expresses the dancer’s obedience to ki, the universal energy or life force of Oriental medicine and martial arts. Likewise the small child may not follow adult commands, but does follow that universal Energy. Basho sees the child’s

obedience to ki as a reflection of the dancer’s awareness of Universal Energy in body movement. The child too, in his or her way, dances to the Energy.


Watching the moon
Takao sends her devotion
from happiness
To pathos and a letter
she dances all night long

 

Tsuki miken / Takao ga temuke / ureshikute

Aware to bun o / odoru yomosugara

 

(2: 209) Takao was a courtesan of the deepest Japanese refinement. She sends her devotion to the moon which is both transitory (because it disappears) and eternal (because it always returns). Basho begins his stanza with aware, the sensitivity to the inherent pathos of all things being transient; she seems to have received a letter from a man telling her he is not coming tonight, so she will be alone to dance all night long. Thus the pathos is together with happiness. Dancing brings her body sensation, like making love to herself. In Basho the focus is on activity, on body-consciousness, on female sensibility.

 

Possibly Basho's finest verse on a woman dancing is

 

Forced to stand
against her will, she dances 
so delicately

 

however I have put that verse in Topic 1 - THE POWER OF WOMEN.  


basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< Basho's Goddesses (L-04 ) (L-06) Pregnancy to Birth >>


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