Basho's thoughts on...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• 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 Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

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  >  Women in Basho  >  L-18


Erotic Flowers



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

“The bees will let themselves be lured into the most ridiculous positions, avidly nosing their way like pigs

through the thick purple brush of a thistle, rolling around helplessly in a single peony’s

blond Medusa thatch of stamens…

Michael Pollon,

The Botany of Desire

 

The following was a farewell verse to his followers in Nagoya where he has stayed as their guest

 

Peony petals,
deep within, the bee’s
reluctance to part

 

牡丹蕊深く這い出るはちの別れ哉
botan shibe fukaku /hai-deru hachi no /wakare kana

 

Basho says, “I want to stay here forever.” He is the bee, Nagoya is the peony. He communicates his message through female body imagery. In case you think I am amplifying the sexuality,

consider Haruo Shirane’s translation:

 

From deep within

the peony pistils – withdrawing

regretfully the bee

 

Can’t leave the “bee” in there forever, can we?

 

And then Nobuyuki Yuasu’s:

 

Having sucked deep

in a sweet peony,

A bee creeps

out of its hairy recesses

OMG! (Neither “sucked” nor “hairy recesses” appears in the Japanese. Basho would not be so obvious.)

 

In the Tale of Genji the handsome (but bumbling) Lord Kaoru remarks to an old woman watching over a roomful of young ladies:


Now through a field of riotous maiden flowers
I go untouched by any drop of dew

 

To which she replies:

 

Suppose you too have a nap among the flowers
Then we may see how you resist their hues

 

                                                      (Seidensticker; volume 11, 1037-38)

 

 

Before leaving on his journey through Kiso mountains (now the Japan Alps), Basho expresses his anxiety about traveling the rough and backward road


Trembling
and all the more moist
maiden flower

 

ひよろひよると / なほ 露けしや / 女郎花
Hyoro hyoro to / nao tsuyukeshi ya / ominaeshi

 

These are tiny clumps of yellow granules on tall stalks in autumn. The Japanese call them “harlot flowers” though the English is “maiden flowers.” How fragile are these flowers moist with dew and seeming about to topple in the raw mountain wind. The translation is altogether literal, however words take on divergent meanings in our private minds.

 

In the Deep North, in a town famous for growing safflowers and producing the orange-red dye used in make-up, Basho conceived a haiku he included in his journal A Narrow Path in the Heartlands.


Eyebrow brush
is the vision I see
safflowers

 

眉掃きを / 俤 に して / 紅の 花
Mayu haki o / omokage ni shite / beni no hana

 

The safflower stalk grows to waist-height and puts forth its orange-yellow thistle-like flower in July. Looking at the living flowers, Basho ‘sees’ into the future this bit of safflower substance applied to a woman’s eyebrow. In older Basho anthologies another verse appears together with this one:


In the future
whose skin shall they touch?
these safflowers

 

行くすえは / 誰が肌ふれん / 紅の花
Yuku sue wa / taga hada furen / beni no hana

 

Safflower dye was also used to color a woman’s under-kimono; a red under robe would be worn by a girl or young woman, not for a formal occasion but for a party. So here Basho ‘sees’ into the future, the female flesh this bit of dyestuff will touch and move over. He explores her body underneath her clothing. The connection between flowers and future eyebrow makeup is interesting, but between flowers and future undergarments is far more intimate, titillating, and fun.

 

The Basho Haiku Shuzei says,

 

“This is a verse by Chiyo-jo. It is not the Old Man’s style.”

 

The woman haiku poet Chiyo-jo was born nine years after Basho’s death and studied with his disciple Shiko. Okina, “Old Man,” is a pseudonym Basho often used. Donagon and Ichihashi, in their English collection of Chiyo-jo’s haiku do not include IN THE FUTURE since there is no evidence that she did write it – except that

she was a woman, so would know about a woman under her kimono – though in their notes they say the verse is “believed by some to be one of Chiyo-jo’s.”


Some scholar seems to have decided that the austere serious-minded Basho (in his imagination) would never have writen so erotic a verse as IN THE FUTURE. His opinion was published without supporting

evidence, and since then all the other scholars have fallen into line with this unsubstantiated rumor, calling the verse “authorship doubtful” and placing in the back of anthologies where no one notices it.


I think the verse is Basho’s style. He often looks into the past or the future to see what is hidden by time, and he often concentrates his attention on a woman’s body: for instance, this study of the female

body in L-4 Woman with Goddess 

 

Long slender
figure of a goddess
so gracefully
She wrings out red dye
into the white rapids.

 

After visiting the Ise Shrine, Basho passes through the nearby town. Because of its association with the high holy shrine of Shinto, you might expect the place to be sanctimonious, off-limits to a brothel. But actually it was the reverse: the street before the shrine is packed with entertainment services, such as a “tea-house” where a prostitute might provide sex to customers who paid. A pilgrimage to Ise was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most Japanese men who went without their wives, and there was sake to take out inhibitions.


The same day, on the way back, we stop at a tea house
where there is a woman named Butterfly.

 

Formerly the prostitute here but then taken by the owner to be his wife, she continues working in his business, using the skills she developed to stimulate customers so they come back for more.


“A haiku on my name, will you?”
She hands me a piece of white silk where I write.

 

The situation fraught with sensuality: mature sexually experienced woman, her name, the piece of white silk she puts into Basho’s hand, her tempting request: あが名に発句せよ、Aga na ni hokku se yoshe sounds like that airline stewardess: “Hi, I’m Cheryl, fly me!”  He responds in kind:


Orchid fragrance
upon wings of Butterfly
sniff the incense

 

蘭の香や / 蝶の翼に / 薫物す
Ran no ka ya / chou no tsubasa ni / takimono su

 

One issue in this haiku is whether we see “butterfly” as a woman or as an insect (there is a difference.) You will notice I have prejudiced you to see the woman by using a capital “B” and not proceeding with “a” or “the.” (Remember I am trying to have fun here.) Even seen as an insect, it’s pretty sensual, but as a woman it is downright erotic.


After she saw Basho’s haiku, Butterfly said

 

“I used to the be the play-woman of this house,
But now I have become the owner’s wife."

 

If we allow the outrageous notion that she considers Basho’s haiku to be a request for sexual favors – because that’s the sort of thing men said to her when they wanted sex – then her spoken response makes

complete sense: Butterfly is politely saying “No” and helping Basho understand why.


Plum or willow?
beautiful young boys
or women?

 

梅 柳 /さぞ 若衆 かな / 女 かな
Ume yanagi / sazo wakashu kana / onna kana

 

Plum blossoms, bright and fragrant in freezing cold of early spring, represent the spring-like innocence of unspoiled youth without any sexual ‘heat.’ Willows, their long slender branches falling all around the trunk, appear as a woman with long hair concealing yet also suggesting her sexuality. In Japan from medieval times, the practice of pederasty, shudō (衆道), "the Way of the Young," was prevalent in the religious

community and samurai society. Basho, in 1682, says that men can choose whether to fulfill their desires with the smooth gentle bodies of young boys, or with women sexually blossoming.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com

 







<< Women in Buddhism (L-17) (L-19) Death and Near Death >>


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...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• 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 Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

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