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
• Woman Central: Basho Honors Women and Girls
• 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  >  Woman Central: Basho Honors Women and Girls  >  L-20


Unfolding Women



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

For me, child, life has always been an endless unfolding:
night unfolding into day, girls unfolding into women,
women unfolding babies from themselves.
Why, life itself unfolds to death, and death unfolds to life again.
There is no cause for sorrow or for fear in this.

                                                                       Mingfong Ho

                                                                        Sing to the Dawn

 

This topic contains six females whose names we know:

the famous authors, Sei Shonagon and Murasaki Shikibu,

Basho’s followers Uko and Sonome;

Jutei, the “wife” of his nephew Toin;

and Basho’s goddaughter Kasane,

For each woman, we, along with Basho, unfold her womanhood

 

 

In a renku composed in 1678, Basho made an interesting response to a

stanza about prostitution:

 

Age of the Gods unheard
love for a hundred coins
Bowing with respect
to that precious treasure,
the Pillow Book

 

神代 もきかず / 百文 の 恋
霊宝の / 枕 草紙を / ふし 拝み

 

Kamiyo mo kikazu / hyakumon no koi
Reihō no / makura sōshi o / fushi ogami

 

Because men listen not to the Gods, they purchase “love” from hookers; a hundred coins was about 2000 yen or 20 dollars today; a paltry fee to pay for a quickie at a roadside rest area. Basho would rather read the words of a woman divinely inspired, Sei Shonagon in her Pillow Book. He says this book is better than sex. By including the title of her book in his stanza, Basho honors the authoress of that book.

 

The Pillow Book is a collection of Shonagon’s 11th century opinions, and she has an opinion about everything. Men who think women should not have opinions, or at least keep their opinions to themselves, will hate this book. Basho honors Sei Shonagon for writing exactly what she wanted to

say; this certainly counts as womanism in both of these Asians, Shonagon and Basho.


                                    (Told by Otokuni)

 

One night Old Man Basho and his followers were gathered in the hut.
Discussing elegance, one person spoke out,
“I have read ancient works in bits and pieces,
but never really explored Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book.
I do feel attracted to it.”
Hearing this, Basho said,

 

Well, if exploring it becomes important to you,
I hope you will find a NEW approach to her heart.

 

Basho says, “Go beyond the scholars with their old worn-out approaches.

Discover a new way to reach into those ancient works.”

 

One of the most famous passages in Japanese literature is Sei Shonagon’s opening

to the Pillow Book:


“In spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful.
As the light creeps over the hills,
their outlines are dyed a faint red
and wisps of purplish cloud trail over them

 

The woman who took the pen-name Murasaki Shikibu from the name of the principal female character in her Tale of Genji, was born in about 973 and like her contemporary Sei Shonagon lived in the Imperial Court. Her mother died when she was a young child – as Genji’s mother does in the Tale. Contrary to customs of the time, her father gave her a ‘boy’s education.’ It is said that she disliked the men at court whom she thought to be drunken and stupid. She married in her twenties and had a daughter in 999.  After her husband died in 1001, Murasaki became a lady-in-waiting and tutor to the Empress, in her diaries she wrote that people found her “pretentious, awkward, difficult to approach, prickly, too fond of her tales,

haughty, prone to versifying, disdainful, cantankerous and scornful.” In other words she made no effort to be nice to people, so did not fit in well.


In 1004 (according to legend) she went to Ishiyama Temple near Lake Biwa, for a seven-day retreat, searching for inspiration. The Genji no Ma (Alcove of Genji) is the ‘traces’ of the small room in the side of the main temple building where under the harvest moon she began work on the world’s first novel and the longest until modern times. In 1690, at dawn Basho went to see the Alcove where he wrote:


Daybreak…
the sky still purple
ho toto GI su

 

The little cuckoo’s bright call bird sounds breathless, as if striving to produce the five notes with utmost beauty. Although the haiku portrays no woman, it was written where Murasaki was inspired to write her

masterpiece and alludes to the famous opening of Sei Shonagon’s masterpiece, the Pillow Book:

Basho brings these two great female authors together with the grandeur of dawn, the color purple, and that inspiring bird call: ho-toto-GI-su


Of all the many female characters in the Tale of Genji, certainly the one in which 

authoress put the most of herself  was Murasaki – and we have seen her as a child on page 17, and as a young woman after being forced to have her first sex on page 44. The great sadness of the character Murasaki was that she was unable to have children. Possibly the most beautiful account of

this character appear just before her death:

 

They had been together for so many years, and here she
was delighting him anew. She managed with no loss of dignity —
and it was a noble sort of dignity — to be bright and humorous.
He counted over the several aspects of beauty
and found them here gathered together;
and she was at her loveliest. But then she always seemed
her loveliest, more beautiful each year than the year before,
today than yesterday. It was her power of constant renewal
that most filled him with wonder.

 

There was something uniquely appealing about her,
having to do, perhaps, with the fact that she always
seemed to be thinking of others.

 

In his Will dictated two days before his death, Basho, possibly thinking of

Murasaki, sends a message to his follower Jokushi:

 

May you enjoy till the end
your wife’s unchanging kindness

 

                     -----------------------------

 

In the summer of 1690 Basho in Kyoto stayed at Uko and Boncho’s house. The following tanka appears in Basho’s letter to Uko in October, with a note specifying that the poem is for her. It requires unfolding.

 

Each evening
kettle surely boiling,
how I miss
those three pillows in
the room where we slept

 

よひよひは / かまたぎるらん / ね所の
みつの枕も / こひしかりけり

 

Yoi yoi wa / kama tagiru-ran / ne-dokoro no
mitsu no makura mo / koishi karikeri

 

Basho recalls the tea ceremony Uko performed for her guest. Kon elaborates Basho’s meaning in the first two lines: “as I think of the kettle boiling in your tea cottage, I imagine your peaceful, settled lifestyle”

-- a lifestyle so serene that each evening she has the time and heart to make tea in the formal meditative Way of Tea.


In a Japanese home of refinement, the houseguest never puts out his or her own futon and pillow; the wife of the house always performs that task while the guest is in the bath. Because Japanese line things up in parallel as an expression of respect, and because Basho was her Teacher and a guest in her house, we can assume that Uko diligently lined the futons and pillows up in three even vertical columns – like the three strokes of the Chinese character for ‘river,’ 川, which suggest a baby nestled between mommy and daddy, receiving warmth and security from both sides. In the tanka the heat of “kettle boiling” flows into the warmth in Basho’s memory of “those three pillows.”

 

Basho wrote two tanka in 1690, both focusing on woman’s life. SPRING PASSES BY (at the end of this topic)  encapsulates the eternal passage of the female frombirth to old age and through generations. EACH EVENING instead focuses on one particular woman, praising her hospitality, her tea ceremony,

the sleeping arrangements she made for her guest.

 

Two years before, at the end of 1688, Uko wrote this haiku:

 

With no child,
of what shall I think?
the year ends

 

She sketches the unsettled feeling of a woman whose hormones seek pregnancy; in 1689 they won.  So by the time of this letter, autumn of 1690, her daughter must be near her first birthday (in the Western sense. (The Japanese did not “have birthdays” – everybody just became one year older on New Year’s Day. Simple.)


(p.s. to 1690 Letter to Uko)

 

May you raise Tei-chan without misfortune.
Yoshi from far away also says this to you.

 

Basho politely addresses the infant as Tei dono – “Little Miss Tei” – but he got the kid’s name wrong; Uko’s daughter is Sai. ‘Yoshi’ is short for Oyoshi, Basho’s little sister, now about 40. When Basho was in Iga at his

house, Oyoshi asked him to take her best wishes to Uko and the baby; here Basho kindly delivers them.


Basho pays attention to the energy passing from one female to another. He writes “like a woman” with consciousness of women, children, and personal relationships.

 

In 1691 Uko sent Basho a present, a cushion she designed and sewed to fit around his hips, to keep them warm while he sits in winter. Basho’s replied on October 3 of this year:


With your letter came the cushion you made for my hips
and sent to me from the intention of your heart,
not from a shallow place within you, and so I am grateful.
Now as we wrap chrysanthemums in cotton:

 

Right before the Chrysanthemum Festival when these tall noble flowers are displayed all over town, people fearing their flowers will catch cold, wrap their stalks in cotton to keep out the cold wind

.

In the first frost
flowers start to shiver,
my hip cushion

 

初 霜や / 菊 冷え初むる / 腰の綿
Hatsu shimo ya / kiku hie-somuru / koshi no wata

 

With autumn progressing and nights starting to show winter near, Basho feels his body as one with the chrysanthemums in the garden. As he shivers, they shiver too. Chrysanthemums have no warm blood, yet must have some means to remain upright, full-petaled, and gorgeous while all else is withered and fading. The warmth from Uko’s cushion around his hips is like the warmth from cotton around chrysanthemum stalks. Both the tanka EACH EVENING and this haiku highlight the physical body warmth in his

feelings for Uko. Maybe it is time to give up the idea that Basho is cold and austere.


I would like to think Sai-chan is becoming obedient.

 

In the p.s. to the 1690 letter, Basho called Uko’s daughter “Tei.” In her letter with the hip cushion Uko must have used the correct name, so in this letter Basho gets it right. If Sai was one then, in the year past she has entered the ‘terrible twos,’ that period when every waking moment is devoted to proving independence from mama. Japanese women today say the same about 2 or 3 year olds (otonashiku natta deshō).


Basho is in Zeze, beside Lake Biwa, where his woman follower Chigetsu lived. She must have told Basho she got a letter from Uko. Here from the letter to Uko is Basho’s postscript in the letter of 1691:


For the letter you sent to Chigetsu
you have made me grateful.
Gentle your heart’s intention, returning again
and again. Chigetsu also knows that feeling.

 

Basho praises with gratitude the gentleness of woman, and affirms the solidarity of women. He seems to be building bridges between these two women followers, as well as bridges from them to women today.

A year and a half later, on February 23, 1693, with winter coming to an end, Basho sent another letter to Uko; here is the p.s. to that letter:


As for the hip cushion you sent me,
this winter I wrapped it around my head
and it kept out the cold.

 

That cushion Uko made and sent him to keep his hips warm, Basho liked wrapping it around his head. This is the real and unconventional Basho, not some austere saint or Buddhist hermit, but as Shoko calls him, ‘Dear Uncle Basho,’ a bit strange but still a pretty good guy.

 

Woman scholar Bessho Makiko says Basho wrote another tanka to and about Uko when she cut her hair to shoulder length and declared herself a Buddhist nun – although she went on living with her husband and infant daughter. The verse does not appear in standard anthologies, but I trust  Bessho, and the verse sounds like one Basho would have written – for fun.


Nine circles
surround the palace
yet no sea —
With what shall this nun
wring out her sleeves?

 

 

 Kokonoe no / uchi ni wa umi no / naki mono o

 Nan tote ama no / sode shoboruran

 

When we lift our hands to our eyes, the long hanging sleeves of a kimono get wet from tears, thus in experiencing strong emotion, the Japanese (in poetry) ‘wring out their sleeves.’ Kokonoe, “nine circles” suggests that Kyoto resembles the ancient Chinese Capital laid out in nine concentric rings with the castle at the center. Still, Kyoto is one of the few major cities in Japan with no sea coast, so poor Uko has no salt water/tears in which to wring out her sleeves. Basho dedicates this nonsense to the “nun Uko.” 

It expresses his affection for her.   

                                                                                                       

We end our exploration of Uko with my favorite of her haiku:

                               

Silencing
the sparkle of stars,
 night shower

 

 

 

                       -----------------------------------

 

Sonome ("Garden Women"), daughter of a priest and official at the Ise Shrine, married to an eye doctor, was known for her beauty. Basho visited Sonome’s home in March of 1688 and wrote the following verse as a

compliment to his hosts; though he mentions the husband in the head note, his verse focusing entirely on her. 


Doorway curtain
behind it, deep within
northside plum

 

暖簾 の / 奥 もの ふかし / 北 の 梅
Nōren no / oku mono fukashi / kita no ume

 

Noren curtains are often seen in Japan today, in the entrance to a shop or restaurant, and in doorways inside the house, you walk through the vertical slit in the middle of the curtain. The oku of the house is the interior or “northside” where the wife does her work. Oku is also the ordinary word for someone else’s wife, oku-san, or more politely, oku-sama. “Mrs. Interior” comes through the curtain to greet the guest and bring tea and

cakes – but otherwise she stays in her “north side.” “Northside plum” means both a tree and the woman Sonome. Plum blossoms are in Japan the most elegant of images and thousands of poems have been written about this elegance. From the guest parlor Basho’s mind passes between the flaps of curtain to the interior of the house, where all is quiet and hidden, yet he knows she is there. So Basho is saying to Sonome: “you are so elegant that I “see” that quality of you even when I cannot see you.” Basho’s attitude toward Sonome

resembles the worship of a goddess. My daughter Shanti says, “Every time I read this verse, the less innocent it sounds.” (The husband’s take on Basho’s sketch of his wife is not recorded.)

 

Sonome and husband moved to her Osaka. In 1694, fourteen days before Basho’s death, Basho and nine other poets gathered at Sonome’s home. Basho, as guest of honor, begins the renku, and Sonome follows:


White chrysanthemum
not a speck of dust rises
to meet the eye
Morning moon makes water
with crimson leaves flow

 

白菊の / 眼に立て見る / 塵もなし
紅葉に水を / 流すあさ

 

Shiro-giku no / me ni tatete miru /chiri mo nashi
Momiji ni mizu o / nagasu asa-zuki

 

Sonome has arranged chrysanthemums from her garden in a vase in the decorative alcove in the room where poets gather. Each of many petals in a perfect wheel is pure white without a flaw anywhere, so Basho honors the purity of the woman Sonome. Basho focuses all on one element, the flower’s whiteness, to see in Sonome the divine purity for which he has always searched.


She counters this purity with a process Japanese traditionally consider defiling yet Sonome says is pure: menstruation: the “water” (blood) with fallen “crimson leaves” (discarded lining of the uterus) flows according to the Moon’s cycle. Through this complex response – the moon shining on red leaves in moving water – we can, if we choose to, see that same ideal of purity in woman’s body functions. Sonome rejects her patriarchal culture’s image of menstruation as defilement; she says “No! It is as pure as a white chrysanthemum – pure but complicated as water in motion.”

 

“It takes a lot of time, focus, and energy to realize the enormity
of being the ocean with your very own tide every month.

Inga Muscio

 

According to Shiko, Basho said about WHITE CRYSANTHEMUM:

 

“This is a verse about the beauty of Sonome’s elegance.
Because I knew that today’s one meeting
would be the remnant of a lifetime,
I thought to watch for a vision in this hour.

 

Basho usually writes of ‘seeing’ what is hidden – as he did with Sonome behind the doorway curtain.

Here he speaks of concentrating on the woman actually before his eyes – for this will be his final chance to gaze at her. According to Shiko who was there at the time, Basho said the verse is about the “beauty of Sonome’s elegance.” Japanese scholars obviously either do not know, or do not approve of Shiko’s account, since they ignore it. Makoto Ueda translates five scholars’ comments on this

verse: here are, three of them (Ueda 1992, p. 408)

 

“I prefer to read this strictly as a poem on white chrysanthemums”

 

“The beauty of the flower has no reference to anything else.”

 

“Basho was just writing a poem on flowers; he had no

thought of Sonome at all; later on, it came to imply the poet’s

respect for the hostess with no deliberate intention on his part.”

 

What?! Basho was at her home, and his haiku a greeting verse to his hostess. Of course it expresses respect. Here are three fine examples of androcentric thinking. To these scholars (if Ueda’s translations are

accurate) any notion that Basho cares about women is an anathema.

 

In the renku sequence beginning with Basho’s WHITE CHRYSANTHEMUM and Sonome’s MORNING MOON MAKES WATER, #s 3 through 9 were by other poets. Following is #10 by Basho, and Sonome’s #11:


Their new house
being built, in a shack
they have a fire
Resolving to stay here
the wife settles down

 

普請のうちは /小屋で火を焼く
帰らぬに/ 極めるの嫁の /さめすまし

 

Fushin no uchi wa / koya de hi o taku
Kaeranu ni / kimeru no yome no / samesumashi

 

Basho portrays the transient feeling of people who have torn down their old house, and are building a new one, so right now are homeless. They have a place to stay at night, but spend their days at the construction site. They have made a firepit in a shack and there cook lunch. Sonome says camping in a shack is fine for guys, but as a woman she would go crazy without a proper stove and sink and other convenieces of a

17th century kitchen. The woman in her stanza did get hysterical, and was ready to return to her native home, an action which could lead to divorce – but then she thought about it some more, and resolved the matter in her mind: she stays with her husband and, by looking forward to the new home when it is built, endures camping out for a while longer.

 

Notice the link from the fire in Basho’s stanza to the hysteria in Sonome’s. In two short lines, she manages to convey both the burning desire in the woman’s heart to get away from the mess and dirt and inconvenience, and also the cooling down as she realizes she had better stay and endure. She shows us how women feel and respond in a patriarchal world.

 

---------------------------------

 

As for the “wife” of Basho’s nephew Toin and mother of Basho’s grandnephew and two grandnieces, her name is unknown to us, but after Toin dies in 1693, she takes the Buddhist name Jutei. Some say she was

Basho’s lover in Iga before he left town in 1672 at age 28; others that she was a “maid” (and maybe courtesan) of Basho in his early years in Edo. She may even been both – first Basho’s maid/lover and later his nephew’s common-law wife – or neither.


                           Letter to Sora, dated Oct 13, 1690

 

I am greatly relieved to hear that Toin is managing.
Even if he cannot do so well, so long as he does not fall over,
there is merit in that. Remind him not to be negligent.
Tell them that between parent and child,
brother and sister, there should be no discord.

 

Basho got a letter from Sora telling of conflict in the family. Shoko gets the feeling that Toin has some degree of disability. Even without modern psychological terms, Basho describes his nephew’s problems with

considerable accuracy. Even without specifying the wife, we suspect how she suffered from Toin being “negligent” and from the discord in her family. In Basho’s letters we learn that Toin was a fugitive from the law in Iga and hiding out in the metropolis using an alias, so there were also the problems that occur from living as fujitives from the law.


Basho tells of Toin coming down with tuberculosis in winter of 1692 and dying in Spring. He borrowed the equivalent of $600 from Kyokusui so Jutei and the kids could have something to eat. They needed a place to

stay. Basho had a recently built 3-room hut where he lived alone, although Jirobei sometimes stayed with him. He could have brought all four of them in, but the place was really not big enough for an old woman,

two young teenage girl, an adolescent boy, and Basho. The perfect solution was to take Jirobei on a journey, and let the females have the place to themselves.

 

After Basho and Jirobei left Edo on June 3rd, Jutei and her daughters moved into Basho’s hut.

On June 8th, Basho wrote to Sora:


I hope Jutei’s move went well,
though I know you had no part in it,
please give her my best regards.

 

Jutei died in Basho’s hut on July 23. On July 29th Basho receives a letter from Ihei telling of Jutei’s death, and replies the same day:


Jutei was a person without happiness
and Masa and Ofu the same unhappiness;
to express my thoughts is difficult…

 

It would be normal for Basho to honor her spirit at her Hatsu-bon, the first Festival of the Dead after she died. In his final O-bon season, Basho wrote:


To the woman Jutei who died:

 

“Of no account”
think not this of yourself
Festival of Souls

 

数ならぬ / 身とな思ひそ / 玉祭
Kazunaranu / mi to na omoi zo / tama matsuri

 

The Festival of Souls is a time to wonder about life and death, about ancestors and all their achieved, about descendents and how we prepare for them. The Jutei in Edo brought three children into this world and raised them to teenage, so she certainly was “of account” – however apparently for much of her life she considered herself of little worth.

 

Margaret Cavendish, born 21 years before Basho and alive till he was 32, was an English noblewoman but, speaking for women in general, she said


The truth is, we live like bats, or owls,
labor like beasts, and die like worms.

 

Basho hibernate in caves until warmth wakens them. Even though Basho did not know this British woman, he wrote a haiku which answers her:


Come out, bat!
In floating world of blossoms
You be a bird

 

蝙蝠も / いでよ浮世の / 華に鳥
Koumori mo / ide yo ukiyo no / hana ni tori

 

They have membrances between their limbs that they can spread out to catch the wind and glide through the air – certainly no match for the muscles of a bird’s wing. Basho tells the woman to come out from hiding,

and discover the joy and power of a full life.

 

The 20th century feminist Hiratsuka Raicho speaks for many women who feel “of no account”


What women do now only invites scornful laughter.
Well I know this and also what lurks beneath scornful laughter.
And I am not even slightly afraid of it.
But how is it that women inflict upon themselves
disgrace and humiliation?
Are women to be vomited at, is this their worth?
No, No, an authentic person is not!

 

How remarkable that a prominent early Japanese feminist in 1911 said the same as Basho did in his poem OF NO ACCOUNT.

 

Basho wrote the following tanka in the spring of 1690 to bless a newborn baby girl he was asked to name. He named her Kasane: a verb in the dimension of space meaning to “pile up in layers” and in time “to reoccur,in succession.” From this double meaning, the name and the poem unfold

to Basho’s reverence for life and for the female.

 

Spring passes by
again and again in layers
of blossom-kimono
may you see wrinkles
come with old age

 

いく春を / かさねがさねの / 花ごろも
しはよるまでの / 老もみるべく

 

Iku haru o / kasane gasane no / hana-goromo
shiwa yoru made no / oi mo miru beku

 

Kasane, now your time begins, stretching to infinity before unfocused eyes. Soon you’ll be laughing and playing in the sunshine – that is, if no wars come and natural disasters, fatal illness, and financial ruin stay away too. To appreciate this tanka, we must recognize the hope in 17th century Japanese that the peace enforced by the Tokugawa Shogunate will continue. No one wants to return to the suffering of the Warring States Period from 1467 to 1603. Once we see within SPRING PASSES BY an Ode to Peace,

the blessing unfolds for Kasane and all newborn girls.

 

One spring in youth, you shall be given your first blossom kimono; a two layer silk robe worn over an under-robe. The springs shall come and go with clouds of pink-and-white blossoms filling the treetops to fall in a

shower of petals as you blossom into a young lady elegant in your bright lovely kimono.

 

Each year as you sit with legs folded under you on the straw mat under the cherry trees, creases shall form in the fabric. Carefully, as your mother shows you, restore its silky smoothness for another year. May the day come for you to pass this youthful robe onto your daughter, the next ‘layer’ of yourself, while you wear one moderate in color and pattern – and this too passes onto her, and you to the dark sedate kimono of an old woman.


Kasane, may our nation remain at Peace and the happiness in your family pile up layer upon layer until wrinkles in the fabric no longer smooth out and you see wrinkles of old age cross your face. Do not despair, my child, for you live again and again as spring passes by and your granddaughters laugh and chatter in their blossom kimono. The tanka offers Hope to the smallest females — Hope for a childhood

without misfortune, Hope that she will grow into womanhood and see grandchildren. In his few simple words Basho speaks of what concerns women: the succession of life, the happiness of children — the conditions

of peace, both social and family, in which little girls can dress up and party with relatives and friends, and life and prosperity goes on generation after generation.


This tanka appears on page 285 of volume 71 of the Nihon Koten Bungaku Zenshu (Complete Anthology of Japanese Literature) which can be found on the shelf of every library, large or small, in Japan, although it has been completely ignored by every scholar and translator, so that outside of my works, it is unknown to nearly everybody. Because it clearly affirms the worth of the newborn female, and encapsulates the life of a woman from birth to wrinkles, I believe it can unfold to become Basho’s greatest work and the most profound and life-affirming verse in Japanese literature, Asian literature, and World Literature.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com






<< Brothel Slavery (L-19 ) (L-21) Women in Basho Prose >>


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
• Woman Central: Basho Honors Women and Girls
• 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