Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Carpe Diem #735 even woodpeckers

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

We are still on the trail with Basho and at the moment we are on the trail with him to the deep north his most famous journey. In "The Narrow Road into the Deep North" (Oku no Hosomichi) he visited famous places on the Northern part of the Southern Isle Honshu. Today we have a wonderful haiku which Basho wrote at the place were his Zen-master Butcho has lived for a while. In this haiku he reverses to a "waka" by his Zen master:

less than
five foot square
grass shelter
not needed
unless there is rain

© Butcho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

With this haiku came a preface:

"I understand that the Priest Butcho composed this poem about his home here. Seeing this place is so much more impressive than hearing about it, and I feel my heart is purified".

Basho's poem/haiku could be saying that, for him, a grove of trees is enough of a hut. Because trees constantly renew themselves, a woodpecker could not inflict the same damage it could on a building. Basho reveres the priest so much he equates his hut with a temple. It is said that Basho pinned this verse on the post the hut.

even woodpeckers
do not damage this hut
a summer grove

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

There is another similar haiku which is known by Basho. Basho wrote, a while after his "Narrow Road" as he was staying somewhere at Lake Biwa, a haibun which is known as "Genjuan no Fui" or "The Unreal Hut". I love to share that haibun here with you including the haiku.

The Unreal Hut

My body, now close to fifty years of age, has become an old tree that bears bitter peaches, a snail which has lost its shell, a bagworm separated from its bag. It drifts with the winds and clouds that know no destination. From the lofty peaks descends a fragrant wind from the south, and the northern wind steeped in the distant sea is cool. It was the beginning of the fourth moon when I arrived, and the azaleas were still blossoming. Mountain wisteria hung on the pines. Cuckoos frequently flew past, and there were visits from the swallows. In this hut where I live as a hermit, as a passing traveler, there is no need to accumulate household possessions. ... But I should not have it though from what I have said that I am devoted to solitude and seek only to hide my traces in the wilderness. Rather, I a m like a sick man weary of people, or someone who is tired of the world.. What is there to say? ... I labor without results, am worn of spirit and wrinkled of brow. Now, when autumn is half over, and every morning and each evening brings changes to the scene, I wonder if  that is not what is meant by dwelling in unreality. And here too I end my words.

among these summer trees,
a pasania *--
something to count on.

© Basho (Tr. Burton Watson)

(* The pasania is a majestic and ancient tree with spreading trunk and splendid canopy, hence "something to count on.") 

A wonderful story I think. It fits this episode so well. In my opinion these two haiku you cannot see without each other, but that's just my opinion.

high in the sky
in my tree house -
the spring breeze

© Chèvrefeuille

Not a strong haiku I think, but I love to give another idea to the "hut" as mentioned in the haiku by Basho. And the first thing which came in mind was a tree house, so I just had to use that.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until May 22nd at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, one patch of a rice field, later on.

1 comment:

  1. Incredble sadness from Basho there, and wonderful description of a small fragile hut as temple. I think the question is not if your haiku is good or not good here, but whether Basho reached you in his words, and you continued them to us. In both these points you succeeded, CDHK Master...