Friday, July 18, 2014

Carpe Diem #518 Basho (4), ''has spring come''

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

We are on a journey along the haiku of the ''big-five'' and today we have the fourth haiku by Basho. As you have seen maybe our Tan Renga Challenge is also a haiku by Basho. That Tan Renga Challenge haiku is one of his first verses, but in this ''regular'' episode I love to share his first haiku ever (as far as we know). As he wrote/composed this haiku he was a young guy of nearly 20 yrs old. And in my opinion this haiku looks like the haiku of a beginner, but as we will look closer ... this haiku is a masterpiece, one of his first masterpieces. This haiku isn't wellknown, but I think you will like it.

Basho was born in the small village now known as Ueno in the Iga Province (now called Mie Prefecture), which is about 30  miles southeast of Kyoto, and 200 miles west of Tokyo. Located in a river basin surrounded by the Suzuka and Muro Mountains, the town also boasts the Iga Ueno Castle, which has the highest walls of any other castle in Japan. In the central park of Ueno is a huge memorial to Basho.

Credits: Basho Memorial Museum Ueno, Japan
In Iga-Ueno still stands what is said to be the house where Basho was born in 1644. As with many births, his has become a fact of legend, giving him the birth date of the autum full moon or September 15th. About all we know of his mother is that her parents came from Iyo Province (Ehime Prefcture) in Shikoku, the large island below Honshu. His father, Matsuo Yazaemon, was a low-ranking samurai. In times of peace, when he was not active in defending the local feudal lord, Basho's father had a plot of land where he could farm to support his family of two boys and four girls. As a baby, Basho was given the name Kinsaku.
Basho was called Munefusa when, as a young lad, he entered the retinue of Todo Yoshikiyu, a relative of the feudal lord who ruled the province. Since there is no official record of his service, it has been suggested that his position was a very low one. We don not know what his official job was, but it is certain that Basho became a close friend of the man's son, Yoshitada, whao was only two years older. One of their passions was for verse-writing to the extent that Yoshitada took on a nom de plume of Sengin, and Basho called himself Sobo, the sinified rendition of Munefusa. (Later on in his life he changed his nom de plume into Tosei and later on to Basho. He took the nom de plume Basho after he was given a ''basho-tree'' (banana-tree) by one of his disciples.)
Credits: Bronze statue of Basho. Ueno Park Japan

This is the earliest of Basho's saved poems:

haru ya koshi    toshi ya yukiken    kotsugomori

has spring come
or has the year gone?

© Matsuo Basho (Tr. David Landis Barnhill)

With this haiku came a preface, as was very common in those times. That preface was: ''Today we have the first day of spring in spite of the date''.

I think you can imagine why Basho wrote this haiku, so I leave it ... no explanation ... just visualize the scene.
I hope this episode will inspire you all to write new haiku, or maybe you love to share your first haiku ever. This was my first haiku ever ...

In Dutch:

de zon gaat onder,
zacht fluistert het jonge groen
de naam van Boeddha.

© Chèvrefeuille

Credits: Buddha
In English:

at sundown, 
fresh green leaves whispering
the name of Buddha.

© Chèvrefeuille

Well ... it was a great opportunity to share these first haiku by Basho and myself with you and I hope you liked them.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until July 21st at noon (CET). I will try to post our next episode, the fourth haiku by Chiyo-Ni, later on. For now ... have fun!


  1. When you look back on your haiku, you must notice the strength of its freshness too, Chevrefeuille. I like very much the idea of changing writer's pen name, or nom de plume now and then, to bring in different feeling or point of view.

  2. Thank you for sharing a haiku in Dutch! I've really been wanting to get a feel for this. All the best to you --