a small space
between wit and wonder
left vacant

Monday, June 16, 2014


(Page 2 of 3)
Dr. Gabi Greve's
Basho Translations (Part 2)
from the
 Matsuo Basho Archives –– World Kigo Database

A study resource compiled by Elaine Andre, 2014

Selected translations from the 1031 verses by Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694)

for study purposes only – use by permission –

See also: http://matsuobasho-wkd.blogspot.jp

kochira muke ware mo sabishiki aki no kure

turn toward me !
I am also lonely
at the end of autumn

turn this way -
I am lonely too;
autumn evening
(Tr. Haldane)

Written in 1690, Basho age 47.
Matsuo Basho wrote on a self-portrait by Unchiku, a Kyōto monk, with his face turned away:

"You are already more than 60, I am now almost 50, together we are living in a dream . . . "

Unchiku was 59 at this time (not more than 60, as Basho wrote in his comment.)
50 was already considered a "long life" in the Edo period.

Basho compares the "end of autumn", (or "autumn evening"), with the life span of himself and his friend. 

kogakurete chatsumi mo kiku ya hototogisu

hidden by the shrubs
do the tea pickers hear it too?
this hototogisu

Written on the 8th day of the 5th lunar month 1694

Basho had spent a night at the home of Kashiwagi Soryuu (? - 1716).
Basho wrote this most probably as a response to a poem by Soryu, and described this scene from his memory of the tea plantations of Suruga.
The ladies picking tea are coming in and out of the tea shrubs, while the hototogisu is singing his song.

chatsumi uta -  song of the tea pickers
kigo for late spring

kono kokoro suiseyo hana ni goki ichigu

this my heart
you will know - with this flower
and this begging bowl

Written in the spring of 1692

Matsuo Basho, who had spent some time with Kagami Shiko in Edo wrote this for Shiko, who was departing on a trip. He also gave him this gift

goki - "honorable bowls" for begging and eating
goki –begging bowl – kigo (all yr.)
ichigu - means hitosoroi - one set, containing bowls for soup and food.

kono matsu no mibae seshi yo ya kami no aki

this old pine
sprouted in the age of gods -
autumn of the Gods

Kashima Kiko, Kashima Mairi, Kashima Mode
Kashima Journal, Pilgrimage to Kashima Shrine In 1687

He started off by boat from Basho-an on the 14th day of the 8th lunar month to see the full moon.
He visited temple Kashima Konpon-Ji and stayed with the priest Butchoo / Butcho (1643– 1715). He came back home on the 25th. Basho practised Zen with Master Butcho.

The impact of Zen Buddhism on Basho's haikai is a popular theme for Western writers. Basho's encounter with his Zen teacher, Butcho is estimated to have taken place around 1681 (Tenwa 1) a year after Basho moved to Fukagawa.

We may recall that just before the move he composed an important poem:

kare eda ni karasu no tomari taru ya aki no kure

On the withered branch
A crow has alighted-
Nightfall in Autumn
(Tr. Donald Keene)

This autumn poem is said to reflect the influence on him of the monk-poets of the Gozan Zenrin. He made the famous trip to Kashima, east of Edo, to visit Butcho, now an old friend, at the Nemoto-ji Temple in 1687 (Jokyo 4) and it was a year before this that he composed the verse:

furuike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto
[an old pond / a frog jumps in –– / the sound of water]
Susumu Takiguchi.

Kashima Shinko:
It is possible to think of Kashima faith as the sect based at Kashima Jingū in Kashima-machi, Ibaraki Prefecture, but it can broadly be divided into beliefs related to water, "tutelary of roads" (sae no kami), and Kashima shrines. Many regions and shrines bear the name "Kashima," and since these are usually found in river, stream, lake, or swamp areas, we can assume that the origins of Kashima faith are profoundly connected with water.

Images of sae no kami are called Kashima dolls, straw dolls, Shōkisama, and dōsojin, among other names. Most of these images are very large, made of straw, and are characterized by their exposed sexual organs. They protected village borders from the invasion of "plague kami" (ekishin) and were prayed to in order to ensure safety or prosperity. In some regions, during the Kashima Festival dolls are placed in "Kashima boats" and sent out to sea in order to send ekishin away. <snip>
- Nogami Takahiro

kono yado wa kuina mo shiranu toboso kana

this lodging has a door
not even known
to the water rail . . .

Most probably written when Basho visited Kosen in Otsu in 1694.
As a greeting to his host who lived so remote and lonely that
"not even the water rails come to knock at the door".
The voice of the birds sounds like someone knocking on a door,
kuina tataku.

Waka by Fujiwara no Teika.

maki no to ni tataku kuina no akebono ni
hito ya ayame no noki no utsuri ka

"At dawn I heard a knock at the door,
but when I opened there was nobody,
just the voice of a water rail outside."

The "knocking of the water rail" is also mentioned in the Murasaki Shikibu Diary Emaki

konoha chiru sakura wa karushi hinokigasa

falling leaves
of the cherry trees so light
on my pilgrim's hat

Written in 1684, Basho age 41
Basho is making his way into the mountains of Yoshino, usually famous for the sakura blossoms in spring.
This hokku is handed down in the family of his travel companion Kasuya Chiri

koomori mo ideyo ukiyo no hana ni tori

even bats
come out to this floating world
of blossoms and birds

--- to make it 5-7-5 in English:

even horseshoe bats
come out to this floating world
of blossoms and birds

Kigo: Bat - all summer

kuchikiri ni Sakai no niwa zo natsukashiki

opening a new tea jar
in a garden in Sakai -
full of dear memories

Written in 1629
Basho was invited to this ceremony in Edo, but he remembered the splendid tea ceremonies of Sen no Rikyu in Sakai, Osaka. This hokku is a greeting to his rich host.

Kuchikiri no chaji - opening the tea jar
kuchikiri, kuchi kiri
kuchikiri chakai - Kuchikiri tea ceremony
now around November 16
It used to be the 30th day of the 9th lunar month.

Tealeaves picked in early summer are packed inside jars and mature until November. Now the jars are opened (kuchi kiri: open the mouth of the jar). The leaves are then ground into powder for powdered green matcha.
At this tea ceremony, the tea is prepared using the first fresh powder.

Sakai Cho in Edo
A pleasure quarter near the center of town at Nihonbashi
One of the three famous Kabuki theaters of Edo was located in Sakai.

Kumasaka ga yukari ya itsu no tama matsuri

remembering Kumasaka
right here - the festival
for the souls

kure kurete mochi o kodama no wabine kana

the year ends fast
with the echo of pounding mochi
while I sleep alone . . .


the year ends fast
with the echo of pounding mochi
while I spend a lonesome night . . .

Written in 1681, Basho age 38.
Living alone at Basho-An, Fukagawa, Edo. Since he lives alone, he does not pound mochi for himself and can only hear the echo from the neighbours.

Trying to incorporate the repetition of KURE KURETE
This hokku has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.

Basho uses the characters for "tree spirit", read "kodama".
Considering the huge wooden mortar and mallets, this is quite appropriate.

the year ending
with echos of pounding rice-cakes -
a desolate sleep
(Tr. Barnhill)

The very end of this closing year -
With the echo of rice-cake pounding
I sleep alone.
(Tr. Takafumi Saito)

kusa no to ya higurete kureshi kiku no sake

this grass door -
dusk arrives with a present
of chrysanthemum ricewine

Written in 1691, on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month.

His disciple Kawai Otokuni brought a barrel of ricewine.
Basho stayed at temple Gichu-Ji at Mumyooan, Mumyo-An.

Kawai Otokuni . (1675 - 1720)
Kawai Chigetsu (1634-1718)

The Nun Chigetsu, Chigetsu-Ni

kusamakura makoto no hanami shite mo koyo

this grass pillow -
go and experience some real
cherry blossom viewing

Written by Basho in 1690
It is a farewell hokku for Rotsu, who was off to a long trip.

"Take this opportunity for your new haikai travels to study more about poetry, blossoms and hokku!"

mite koi, mite koyo - a greeting for someone leaving.
go and come back and see things for yourself!

Yasomura Rotsuu / Rotsu (? - 1738) It was said Rotsu was 90 when he died. Rotsu was from Otsu in Omi. He was born at the temple Miidera and well versed in poetry and classical literature.
He was one of the eccentric disciples of Basho. He traveled as a mendicant begging monk around Japan for many years and later returned to a secular life. He joined the Basho disciples in 1685 and lived for a while close to the Basho-An in Fukagawa Edo. He could not accompany Basho for his trip to "Oku no Hosomichi" but went all the way to Tsuruga to meet him on the last leg of the trip.

kusa no to ya higurete kureshi kiku no sake

this grass door -
dusk arrives with a present
of chrysanthemum ricewine

Written in 1691, on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month

His disciple Kawai Otokuni brought a barrel of ricewine.
Basho stayed at temple Gichu-Ji at Mumyooan, Mumyo-An.

Kawai Otokuni . (1675 - 1720)
Kawai Chigetsu (1634-1718)

The Nun Chigetsu, Chigetsu-Ni

kuwa no mi ya hana naki choo no yosute-zake

mulberries -
with no more blossoms they are the hermit wine
for the butterflies
Butterflies like to suck the sweet juice of mulberries. They do this in the season when there are no more blossoms and they relish it like a hermit relishes his sip of sake.

The mulberries--
Without flowers, they are the butterfly's
Hermit wine.
(Tr. Pei Pei Qiu)

"Inventing the New Through the Old:
The Essence of 'Haikai' and the 'Zhuangzi’", by Pei Pei Qiu, Asian Studies,

Qiu points out that:
"The image 'mulberries' has long been used in Chinese poetry to signify rustic country life. Since the foremost Chinese recluse poet Tao Qian [T'ao Ch'ien or Tao Yuanming] (365-427) uses the image in his famous poem "Returning to Gardens and Fields to Dwell" (Gui yuantian ju'), the mulberry tree has been used as a typical image to signify the life and taste of a recluse. ...
In 'waka' tradition, too, the image is always associated with pastoral scenes. Since Basho's works often make direct quotations from Tao Qian's poetry, his depiction of the mulberries as the hermit wine here is apparently a careful choice that evokes the association between his immediate experience of the hut life and the long recluse tradition."

Kyoo made wa mada nakazora ya yuki no kumo

until Kyoto
it is just half-way -
clouds with snow

Matsuo Basho, 44 years old, written at Narumi
nakazora - half of the sky . . .

Kyoo ni akite kono kogarashi ya fuyuzumai

getting bored of Kyoto
and now this ice-cold wind -
my lodging in winter

Written in 1691, tenth lunar month
Matsuo Basho visited Kogetsu on his last trip from Kyoto to Edo (Azuma kudari) after he had finished his long trip to "Oku no Hosomichi" and stayed in the Kyoto region (Kamigata) for more than 2 years.

Basho seems to be quite fed up with his life in the capital by now. The winter wind makes him remember his own dwelling in Edo.
This is his greeting hokku to his host.

Kyoo ni te mo Kyoo natsukashi ya hototogisu

even when in Kyoto
I long for Kyoto -

Matsuo Basho stayed at Genjuu-An / Genju-An in Shiga in the year Genroku 3 (1690), but had been to a visit in Kyoto.

This haiku has the cut marker YA at the end of line two and the name of the bird,
hototogisu, as the last line.

Even in Kyoto --
hearing the cuckoo's cry --
I long for Kyoto.
(Tr. Robert Hass)

Bird of time –
in Kyoto, pining
for Kyoto.
(Tr. Lucien Stryk)

machi ishi ya yashikigata yori koma mukae

the doctor of the town -
from a samurai mansion they come
picking him up with a horse

Written in 延宝3, Basho age 32.
In the times of Basho, the "doctor of the town" did not have a very high reputation. Here Basho makes fun of the low position of these doctors.
The samurai lived in yashiki mansions, but it could be just a poor residence.

mata ya tagui Nagara no kawa no ayu namasu

once again - this rare
pickled sweetfish
from river Nagaragawa

Written in summer of 1688
The cormorants from Nagaragawa fish for ayu sweetfish, and the humans eat them afterwards.
Basho was lucky to watch the famous cormorant fishers at work.

matsutake ya shiranu ko-no-ha no nebaritsuku

o dear mushroom !
an unknown leaf
is sticking on to you

meigetsu wa futatsu sugite mo Seta no tsuki

this harvest moon
now even for the second time -
the moon of Seta

Written on the 18th day of the 8th lunar month, 1691.
In this year the full moon was seen twice because of an intercalary month. So Basho could enjoy the full moon of autumn twice.

mezurashi ya yama o Dewa no hatsu nasubi

how wonderful and extraordinary !
coming out of the sacred Dewa mountains
to these first eggplants

"After we confined ourself in Haguro-Sanzan Shrine to pray for seven days,we have come down to Tsuruoka Town. Then we are given a warm welcome at Nagayama Juko's residence. How delicious the new egg plants are at the dinner."

Surprizingly new!
After the mountain visit
The year's first eggplant of Dewa.
(Tr. Oseko)

Matsuo Basho at Sakata
A greeting hokku for his host, Nagayama Shigeyuki.

The first eggplants are the special Minden Nasu
minden-nasu - small round eggplants used for delicious pickled minden eggplants.

At the foot of mount Kinbosan (Kinboosan) there is a small village called Minden where these eggplants are grown. More than 300 years ago a visitor from Kyoto brought some seeds from eggplants to this village. They are also prepared as karashi mustard pickles to keep for a long time or as hitobanzuke over night pickles with salt.

mi ni shimite daikon karashi aki no kaze

the pungent taste of this radish
penetrates right through my body -
autumn wind

Penetrating deep,
the sharp taste of white radish—
winds of autumn
(Tr. Blyth)

The speaker tastes a daikon, a white radish, which is so sharp and spicy that it seems to pierce the body. The first five syllables, “Penetrating deep” (mi ni shimite), are related not only to “The sharp taste of white radish” (daikon karashi) but to “The winds of autumn” (aki no kaze), which also penetrate the body.
The two parts of a toriawase interact in the manner of a hibiki link, in which the emotional and sensory intensity of the previous verse “reverberates” in the added verse.
The whiteness of the daikon is also echoed in “The winds of autumn,” traditionally referred to as “colorless wind” (iro naki kaze).

The fatigued metaphor of “autumn wind,” a cliché from the classical, “high” (ga) tradition, is here reenergized by the visceral, unusual metaphor of “the sharp taste of radish” (daikon karashi), a haigon from everyday, “low” (zoku) culture. The heterogeneous images combine to form a larger metaphor for the hardship and bitterness of travel.
- Blyth

The daikon from the Kiso region with its poor soil of the mountain fields is especially pungent.
But the cold wind is even more penetrating.
Basho on the Sarashina Kiko, Aida village. With a stone memorial

miyako idete kami mo tabine no hikazu kana

I left the capital
and shared many nights on the road
with the gods

Matsuo Basho, 1691
Basho had left Kyoto late in the 10th lunar month and arrived in Numazu on his way to Edo early in the 11th lunar month, just when the gods are absentin Izumo and might have been on their way home too.

Numazu Hie-jinja / Hie Shrine in Numazu
Hie Shrine in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, had been the head guardian shrine of 22 villages in the area before the Meiji period (1868-1912). The enshrined deities are Ooyamakui no Kami The guardian god of Mt. Hiei), Oomunachi no Kami and Ootoshigami. It is said that the shrine was founded by Fujiwara no Moromichi’s mother in 1100 in the clan’s manor, which was called “Ooka-sho” at that time.

Fujiwara no Moromichi was a head of the Fujiwara clan and served as Kampaku and Udaijin. Having come into colligion with the Tendai monks in Mt. Hiei, he ordered to attack them in 1095. As some monks were wounded in the battle and this aroused anger of the monks, he was placed a curse and died young in 1099. Thus his mother transferred the three dieties of Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Mt. Hiei to appease the anger of the deities of Mt. Hiei.

Traditionally, the school of Shinto, which believes in the guardian deity of Mt. Hiei is called the Sanno (the King of Mountain) Shinto; hereby this shrine is also called “Sanno-sha”. The annual festival held for two days from September 23 every year is popularly called “Sanno-san” by the local people and enjoyed as the representative event of the city that tells of the coming of autumn.

The shrine is also famous for the collection of important old documents including Sanno Reikenki in Shihon-Chakushoku style (paper-based colored), which is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property.
In the precinct is a stone monument inscribed with a poem by Matsuo Basho.
source : nippon-kichi.jp

Sannō Shinkō / Sanno Shinko
The cult that began at Hiyoshi Taisha (Hiesha) at the foot of Mount Hiei. Originally, Sannō was the "mountain kami" (yama no kami) of Mount Hiei, but came to be worshipped as the protective kami of the Tendai (Chi. T'ient'ai) sect and of the temple Enryakuji. After the mid-Heian Period, when the temple Enryakuji developed as a kenmon (central land-owning institution) temple complex, imperial court devotion to Hiesha increased.

Courts such as that of Enyū emperor (reigned 969 ~ 984) conducted occasional festivals there and finally recognized Hieisha as one of the "Twenty-two Shrines" (nijūnisha). Moreover, from the end of the Heian Period through the medieval period, Hieisha became as popular as "Kumano's Three Peaks" (Kumano sanzan) as a pilgrimage site (sankei) among everyone from emperors and retired emperors to aristocrats and commoners.

At the beginning of the medieval period, along with the popularity of belief in "child deities" (dōji) and "offspring shrines" (wakamiya), the popularity of Jūzenji shrine (currently called Jugegū – one of Sannō's seven main shrines) surpassed that of Hieisha's Ōmiya shrine in which Hiesha's principle "enshrined kami" (saijin) is worshipped.

As the protective deity of Tendai temples and of Enryakuji or Hiesha's land holdings, Sannō "emanations" became worshipped (bunshi) throughout Japan resulting in the further spread of the cult of Sannō.

Because Hiesha is located to the northeast of Kyōto, it became regarded as a guardian against the evil spirits entering the capital from "demon gate" (kimono) northeastern direction, and as a result sacred images (shinzō) of divine monkeys believed to be Sannō's "divine messengers" (shinshi) were enshrined in the northeastern corner of the Heian imperial palace.
Source : Sato Masato
Kokugakuin University 2007

There is a lot to study about the Shinto deities to appreciate this hokku.

the gods on their way to Izumo come with the following kigo

"gods-absent month", 10th lunar month,
kannazuki, kaminazuki

"gods-present month", month with the gods
This kigo could only be used in IZUMO itself, where the gods were present.

the gods are absent, kami no rusu
the gods are travelling, kami no tabi

saying good bye to the gods, sending off the gods
..... kami okuri

welcoming the gods, greeting the gods
..... kami mukae
This kigo could only be used in IZUMO itself, where the gods were arriving.

mizu mukete ato toi tamae doomyooji

water offerings
to console her spirit
with Domyoji rice

Written in memory of the Mother of his disciple Fuboku
Basho age 35.
Here it is not the name of the temple, but the name of the cold rice food (hoshi-ii) prepared there.
Ofter offering on the family altar, the cold water is used to prepare some Domyoji rice. May it cool off the soul on this hot summer day.
kigo for mid-spring

Doomyooji matsuri
Domyoji Temple Festival

Domyoji Tenmangu
Fujidera Town, Osaka

Domyoji Tenmangu Shrine originates in Haji Shrine that Haji Tribe built in 3 A.D. to enshrine their ancestor Amenohohi no mikoto (the son of Amaterasu Omikami, the goddess of the sun).

After Buddhism was introduce into Japan, Prince Shotoku decided to build a magnificent temple composed of the five-story stupa and seven halls on the land with an area of 320 m east and west and 640 m north and south, which Haji Yashima donated. The temple was named Haji Temple - Hajidera and later it was assumed the new name of Domyoji by Sugawara no Michizane (enshrined as a deity of learning).

The grandmother of Michizane, Kakuju-ni, lived in this nunnary, and when he was put in exile in Kyushu, she put a plate of rice in the direction and said prayers for his wellbeing every day. After the ritual the rice was then eaten by the nuns who all were in good health. Thus the rumor of the miraculous qualities of the rice spread.
Later the mochigome rice was watered for two days, then simmered and dried for 10 days and after that dried for 20 days near the fireplace. Then it was ground in a stone grinder and the powder is the "Domyoji flour" used for making mochi to our day.

The mochi flour and all kinds of mochi rice dumplings are sold very well during the festival.

Doomyooji hoshi ii - cooked dried rice from temple Domyo-Ji

mochi o yume ni ori musubu shida no kusamakura

I dream of rice cakes
decorated with ferns
on my pillow of grass

Basho age 38
He lives a poor life in his Basho-An and can not afford anything special for the New Year celebrations. So he can only dream of decorations while resting on his poor man's pillow stuffed with grass from the roadside.

kusa makura – grass pillow

mochi-bana ya kazashi ni saseru yome ga kimi /mochibana

these mochi flowers -
put up for decorations
for the first mouse

Basho around age 35.
He observed the first mounse looking hungry at these deliciuos decorations.

mochibana - "mochi flowers"
hahamochi - flower-mochi
hana kazari
mochi no hana - flowers made from mochi
mochiho - ears (of rice) made from mochi
mochigi - tree branch with decorations

These red and white round mochi are put on branches of willows or bamboo and hung on the shelf for the deities (kamidana) in the home or at the entrance, especially of stores and shops. The twigs bend down by the weight of the mochi and thus remind the people of ears of rice. They are a prayer for a good harvest in the coming year.

mochiyuki o shira-ito to nasu yanagi kana

like twisted white stripes
for the willow tree . . .

momo tose no keshiki o niwa no ochiba kana / momotose

hundreds of years
of the view of this garden
with fallen leaves . . .

A greeting hokku to his host Kono Ryu at the temple Mensho-Ji

mon ni ireba sotetsu ni ran no nioi kana

when I enter the gate
there are sago palms and
the fragrance of orchids . . .

Written in autumn of 1689, visiting Ise shrine after the trip to Hosomichi.
This hokku had the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.
From Oi Nikki

At the temple Shuei-In in Ise. This temple does not exist any more, it has become part of Hoojuu In / Hoju-In.
The Sotetsu does not have any fragrance.

sotetsu no hana - cycad blossoms  
..... goshamenbana
Cycas revoluta, Japanese sago palm
kigo for late summer

mugi no ho o tayori ni tsukamu wakare kana
mugi no ho o chikara ni tsukamu wakare kana

I clutch to the barley ears
to support myself
as we have to part now . . .

Written on the 11th day of the 5th lunar month, 1694. Basho age 51.
Basho sets out for his last visit to Kamigata, although he was not feeling too well. His disciples from Edo had accompanied him to maybe Shinagawa or Kawasaki, but now it was time for a final good bye.
During this trip, he later got news that his wive Jutei-Ni had died in Edo.

This hokku has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.
Since the Edo period, the word MUGI is usually used for oomugi - barley, "large mugi", Hordeum vulgare.

mugimeshi ni yatsururu koi ka neko no tsuma

from the wheat gruel
it looses weight -
the cat in love

Basho age 48.

Has it been from love as well as barley rice
that it has grown so scrawny?
cat's mate.
(Tr. Kawamoto )

Musashino ya issun hodo na shika no koe

Musashino plain -
a deer's call reaches only
about one sun

Written in 延宝3, Basho age 32
In the vastness of Musashino plain, even the voice of a deer is very small and does not carry far.

issun 一寸 : about 3 cm

Musashino ya sawaru mono naki kimi ga kasa

the Musashino plain -
nothing to interfere now
with your traveler's hat

Basho age 41 or older

Basho was seeing off Toosan, a disciple from Ogaki, Gifu. He was on his way back to Ogaki and Basho write this hokku for him.
The name of the disciple was maybe Toosan / Tosan.
Now in late autumn, his friend will have a pleasant journey back home.
sawaru can be written with two Chinese characters, - touch or  - hinder, with a slightly different touch to the meaning.

muzan ya na kabuto no shita no kirigirisu

Basho in Komatsu,
Station 36 on the "Narrow Road to the North":

I went to the Tada Shrine located in the vicinity, where I saw Lord Sanemori's helmet and a piece of brocaded cloth that he had worn under his armor. According to the legends, these were given him by Lord Yoshitomo while he was still in the service of the Minamotos.
The helmet was certainly an extraordinary one, with an arabesque of gold crysanthemums covering the visor and the ear plate, a fiery dragon resting proudly on the crest, and two curved horns pointing to the sky. The chronicle of the shrine gave a vivid account of how, upon the heroic death of Lord Sanemori, Kiso no Yoshinaka had sent his important retainer Higuchi no Jiro to the shrine to dedicate the helmet with a letter of prayer.

I am awe-struck
To hear a cricket singing
Underneath the dark cavity
Of an old helmet.
(Tr. Yuasa)

Here Basho tells us the story first and then adds a hokku, where I expresses his feelings quite directly MUZAN.

The first line has been translated in many ways. Alternate example:

muzan ya na kabuto no shita no kirigirisu

how tragic and pitiful ...
a grashopper under
his helmet

nadeshiko ni kakaru namida ya kusu no tsuyu  

tears are falling
on this little pink -
dew from the camphor tree

Matsuo Basho age 41 or later.

The pinks are below the camphor tree.
KUSU refers to the warrior Kusunoki Masashige (1294 - 1336).

The scene is "Separation in Sakurai" (Sakurai no wakare), when Masashige has to send his son and heir Kusunoki Masatsura (1326 - 1348) back to his headquarters in Kawachi Province. His tears fall on his sleeve, since this is a final farewell.

Basho represents the father as the tree, the boy as the nadeshiko below the big tree.

Kusunoki Masatsura (1326 – February 4, 1348), along with his father Masashige and brother Masanori, was a supporter of the Southern Imperial Court during Japan's Nanbokucho Wars.

Masatsura was one of the primary military leaders who revived the Southern Court in the 1340s. The Court had had little to no resources for three years; the strategy was too focused on defending their base at Yoshino, and not on gaining allies, land, or income. The Kusunoki family, and Masatsura in particular, fought to gain power and support for the Emperor.
In 1347, Masatsura led an attack on bakufu (shogunate) sympathizers in Kii Province and ended up attracting supporters from Kii, as well as Izumi and Settsu Provinces. When the Shogun's Northern Court sent Hosokawa Akiuji to stop him, Masatsura met Hosokawa and defeated him in the battle of Sakainoura.

After several more campaigns against the bakufu, Masatsura was killed in the Battle of Shijō Nawate, in February 1348 at the age of 22. Before he died, he composed a death poem:

kaeraji to kanete omoeba azusayumi
nakikazu ni iru na o zotodomuru

I have a feeling
I will not be returning,
so among the names
of those who died by the bow
I inscribe my own.

naka naka ni kokoro okashiki shiwasu kana

here and now
I feel quite at ease -
Twelfth Month

shiwasu - The Japanese is a pun on SHI HASU, calling the monks together to read the sutras for the End of the Year. In the last month of the year, everyone is usually busy with preparations, but Basho is quite comfortable in his lodging.

Written in 1692, Genroku
Basho with Suganuma Kyokusui

nami no ma ya kogai ni majiru hagi no chiri

between the waves -
small shells are mixed with
scattered bush-clover petals

This was written in memory of a waka by Saigyo:

shio somuru Masuho no kogai hirou tote
Iro no hama towa iu ni ya aramu

The small crimson shells
which dye the sea tides
are gathered here,
perhaps the reason this shore
is called "Color Beach”.
(Tr. Barnhill)

Is it because
they gather crimson shells
which dye the ocean tides
that they call this
Color Beach?
(Tr. Shirane)

nani kuute ko-ie wa aki no yanagi kana

what do they eat
in this small house in autumn
below the willow tree ?

This hokku has the phrase stretched over lines 2 and 3:
aki no yanagi kana - autumn for the willow tree
and the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.

Basho age 41 or later

There is just one small house below the willow tree and Basho wonders how its inhabitants make do with their poor life.

nani no ki no hana to wa shirazu nioi kana

I don't know from which tree
these blossoms are -
such a fragrance !

The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.

from what tree's
blossoms I know not:
such fragrance!
(Tr. Barnhill)

from which tree’s bloom
it comes, I do not know––
this fragrance
(Tr. Ueda)

At Ise Yamada
Written on the 4th day of the second lunar month, after visiting the outer shrine at Ise.

This is in memory of a waka by Saigyo:

nanigoto no owashimasu ka wa shirane domo
katajikenasa ni namida kobururu

What holy being
is there, I do not know
and yet
my heart feels the blessings so,
tears flow out of my eyes.
(Tr. Ueda)

nao mitashi hana ni ake yuku kami no kao

all the more I wish to see
in those blossoms at dawn
the face of this god

all the more i wish to see
in those blossoms at dawn
the face of god
(Tr. Makoto Ueda)

Still, I woud fain see
The god's face
In the dawning cherry blossoms.
(Tr. Blyth)

God of this mountain,
May you be kind enough
To show me your face
Among the dawning blossoms?
(Tr. Yuasa)

More than ever I want to see
in these blossoms at dawn
the god's face
(Tr. Hass)

all the more I'd like to see it
with dawn coming to the blossoms:
the face of the god
(Tr. Barnhill)

How I long to see
among dawn flowers,
the face of God.
(Tr. Lucien Stryk)

This god, he is the most ugly deity of Japan! Hitokotonushi!

Hitokotonushi no kami, or literally the God of One Word, who is referred to in the Nihon Shoki Chronicles. The god only grants requests made in one word or one request for each person praying to him. Others say in his oracles he only utters only one word of good or bad.

The Shrine for Hitokotonushi

In fall, the sight of the tall ginkgo tree leaves turning yellow is breathtaking. In the precinct are Kumozuka, or spider mound, whose origin is in the Nihon Shoki, and a monument inscribed with a haiku poem by the travelling poet Basho Matsuo.

Hitokotonushi was the "God of the Rice Paddies" from Katsuragi area.
In olden times, there were five famous shrines in the Katsuragi area.

The above haiku by Basho could be rephrased like this:
"Do not be so shy, show me your face, dear God of One Word!

All the cherry trees are in full bloom and everything is so beautiful here! I am sure you too will look beautiful today!"

Basho was quite fascinated with the atmosphere of the place and found it hard to leave without seeing the "face of this deity".

"The face of God", for a good Christian, might evoke the image of the old man with a white beard. (Translating this "kami no kao" is really difficult.)

natsu kakete meigetsu atsuki suzumi kana

past summer
the full moon night is still so hot
to feel "summer coolness" . . .

Written on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month of 1693.
The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.

In the hot summer Basho had lost all of his energy and shut down his haikai "workshop".

natsukusa ga tsuwamano-domo no yume no ato

summer grass -
that's all that remains of
brave warriors' dreams

Here is something from online (written by Ad G. Blankestijn) comparing different translations of this haiku 
(from Basho's Hosomichi "The Narrow Road..."):

Comparison - Five: Warrior's Dreams
Next we will look at one of the most famous haiku in the Narrow Road, written in Hiraizumi at the site where the destroyed capital of the Northern Fujiwara once stood. Nothing is left of all that splendor, but Basho may have been even more moved by the fact that this is where his favorite hero Yoshitsune was treacherously killed by the last Fujiwara lord. So the "warrior's dream" can both refer to the Fujiwara and Yoshitsune.

natsukusa ya tsuwamano-domo ga yume no ato

summer grass

of warrior's dreams

the aftermath

"ATO" in the last line is difficult to translate: it means "ruin," "trace" or "aftermath."

Yuasa again uses too many words: 
"A thicket of summer grass / Is all that remains / Of the dreams and ambitions / Of ancient warriors."

Britton rhymes again: 
"A mound of summer grass: / Are warrior's heroic deeds / Only dreams that pass?"

Keene has 
"The summer grasses- / Of brave soldier's dreams / The aftermath," and

Sato translates 
"Summer grass: where the warriors used to dream." McCullough is a bit weak here: "A dream of warriors, / and after dreaming is done, / the summer grasses."

Hamill has: 
"Summer grasses: / all that remains of great soldier's / imperial dreams." 
The "imperial" is not in the original and unjustified.

Important in the above is the connection between the dream and the grass, and the fact who is the dreamer. I think Sato is correct: the grass is the spot where the warrior's once used to dream ("used to" is also a nice solution for the awkward "aftermath").

Yuasa dramatizes too much by making the grass "all that remains" of the warrior's dreams, as does Hamill, and Britton is pure fantasy by making the heroic deeds, which are not in the original, into dreams.
Also McCullough writes about "a dream of warriors," and even repeats the dream in "after dreaming is done," which is not very beautiful.

source : daikoku/hyoron/shoseki 

summer grasses--

traces of dreams

of ancient warriors

                        (Tr. Shirane) 

He uses the line, "traces of dreams," as the title of his book on Basho. 
He writes extensively about this haiku, of which I will only quote a little:

"The four successive heavy "o" syllables in 'tsuwamonodomo' (plural for warriors) suggest the ponderous march of warriors or the thunder of battle. As with most of Basho's noted poems, this hokku depends on polysemous key words: 'ato', which can mean "site," "aftermath," "trace," or "track," and 'yume', which can mean "dream," "ambition," or "glory." ...

"... The emphemerality, the dream-like nature of such "ambitions" (yume), is foreshadowed in the opening phrase of the prose passage ("in the space of a dream," 'issui no yume'), a reference to the Noh play 'Kantan', about a man (Rosei) who napped and dreamed a lifetime of glory and defeat while waiting for dinner. ..."

source and more : books.google.co.jp
See: Fuji no yuki Rosei ga yume o tsukasetari (above)
See also:
and Basho’s 8 Dreams:

Addition: a 2nd translation by Donald Keene (from World Within Walls © 1999):

The summer grasses —
For many brave warriors
The aftermath of dreams

nattoo kiru oto shibashi mate hachi tataki

the sound of mixing
fermented soy beans stops frequently -
Hachitataki ritual

Alternate version:

the sound of chopping
fermented soy beans stops for a while -
Hachitataki ritual

Natto is part of the daily food in Buddhist temples and monasteries. Chopped natto can be added to a soup. So the meaning is:
"Since it's during a ritual of hachi tataki (beating a bowl/bowls), please wait for cutting natto for a while."
Thanks to: Yoshiko McFarland

Hachi Tataki
First yearly Memorial Service for Kuuya Shoonin/Kuya Shonin, (903-72)
Kigo: for the New Year

ne no hi shi ni miyako e ikan tomo mo gana

I would like to go to the capital
to enjoy the First Day of the Rat
but there is no friend to come with me . . .

Written in 1687
Basho was again in his homeground, Iga Ueno, to spend the New Year.

kigo: first day of the rat, hatsune; day of the rat; playing at the first rat day, ne no hi no asobi

"small princess pine", hime komatsu
"pine like a tea whisk", chasen matsu
pines of the day of the rat, ne no hi no matsu greens of the day of the rat, ne no hi gusa
dress for the day of the rat, ne no hi goromo

Nehan-e ya shiwade awasuru juzu no oto

Nehan Ceremony -
wrinkled hands in prayer and
the sound of rosary beads

This hokku was probably written on the 15th day of the second lunar month, the ceremony for the Nehan Buddha. in 1694, shortly before Basho's death in October of this year.

There is another ceremony for Buddha
kanbutsu-e - Buddha's Birthday Celebration on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month.

Written at Shrine Ise Jingu
During the Edo period, the distinction between Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine was not so distinct and many religious places housed both.

nippon wa bakuchi no zeni mo sakura kana

it's gambling money
here in Japan...
cherry blossoms

What does this mean?
Is it that the cherry blossom petals are falling onto the gamblers' money, so that it appears that they are gambling with cherry blossoms?
Comment: Larry Bole

Written on the second day of the third lunar month Genroku 3
Basho stayed at the home of his disciple Ogawa Fuubaku, Fubaku in Iga Ueno, where they enjoyed a cherry-blossom viewing party with good food. The cherry petals fell on all their pots and plates.

nomi shirami uma no bari suru makuramoto

fleas and lice
and a horse pissing
next to my pillow

Here Basho was on his best-known pilgrimage... recorded in 'The Narrow Way Within' … at the northern turn of his travels. In a mountainous region, about to pass the barrier between two provinces, he was obliged by bad weather to spend three days at the home of a barrier guard. He counted himself lucky to have any accommodation at all in such a remote place, but the comforts were meager.

Most translators of this haiku interpolate some feeling of disgust.
Donald Keene, who usually can be trusted to translate dispassionately, renders the verse:

Plagued by fleas and lice
I hear a horse stalling
what a place to sleep!

That is not what Basho said or meant at all, for he was using that suffering; he was not used by it. Not a single syllable in his original words reflects self-pity. It was just Nip! Ouch! Pshhh!

How does one understand suffering?
Our practice in the Diamond Sutra is not easy. But if there are the tears of sincere pain, they carry precious virtue. Self-pity sullies this virtue, and when self-pity is projected, we have needless dissension in the sangha, the community. The virtue itself shines forth with incisive spirit that drives through the darkness. The pain itself is just that pain.

© Henro Tracks, a Basho Bash
Henro Tracks discusses pain in the haiku of Basho.

Written on the 17th day of the 5th lunar month, 1689
at the border station Shitomae no seki, Naruko, Miagi Shitomae, lit "before pissing".

fleas lice
horse pishing
by the pillow
(Tr. Corman and Kamaike)

nori jiru no tegiwa mise keri asagi wan

he is so skillfull
at serving seaweed soup -
in this laquer bowl

Written in 1684.
He visited his disciple Kasuya Chiri who lived in Asakusa, Edo, a place famous for its nori even today.
The green norijiru soup was served in a light yellow bowl to make a colorful contrast.

asagiwan - "blue lacquer bowl" in the translations of Shirane
The bowls are covered with black lacquer and then decorated with golden flower and bird design.

nyuumen no shita takitatsuru yosamu kana

tending to a fire
beneath the hot wheat noodle soup
on this cold night . . .

Written in autumn of 1691
This hokku has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.

Matsuo Basho was staying in Otsu, at the home of Zeze Kyokusui on September 28.
The theme of the kukai meeting was "yosamu", the evening getting cold.
Basho's host Kyokusui was cooking a night meal of wheat noodles, miso, and vegetables.

nyuumen - wheat noodles (a kind of soomen from Miwa)
Their production has been taught by the gods from Mount Miwa to the people living close by. They are thin as a thread, white as snow. They are produced during the cold winter months. In summer eaten cold, in winter in warm broth with seasonal vegetables.

Miwa soomen - thin Somen noodles from Miwa town
Somen are fine dried noodles, only one or two millimeters in diameter. Somen produced in Miwa are known for their high quality due to the clear air and pure water. Somen have a history of more than 1000 years, showing the Chinese influence on the old capital. They are cooked in boiling water then washed in cold water until they have cooled down. Cooked somen are served with a special soup called somen tsuyu. Adding spice and condiments enhances the taste of the somen.

Omeikoo ya abura no yoo na sake go masu

Omeiko ceremony -
rice wine like oil
in five masu cups

Basho at age 49

This is a kind of sweet, strong and delicious rice wine.
It was a favorite drink of Saint Nichiren and is now still offered to him.

kigo for late autumn

omeiko, Omeikō - memorial service for Saint Nichiren

omyookoo, o-myookoo, oeikoo, o-eikoo, oeshiki, o-eshiki, eshiki, eshikidaiko drums / mandoo lanterns

Nichirenki, Nichiren ki
Memorial Day for Saint Nichiren
Nichiren, Saint Nichiren - February 16, 1222 – October 13, 1282, was a Buddhist monk who lived during the Kamakura period (1185-1333) in Japan. Nichiren taught devotion to the Lotus Sutra, Namu Myōhō-Renge-Kyō, as the exclusive means to attain enlightenment and the chanting of "Nam Myo ho Renge Kyo" as the essential practice of the teaching. He is credited with founding what has come to be known as Nichiren Buddhism, a major school of Japanese Buddhism encompassing numerous sects espousing diverse doctrines.
He was exiled to Sado Island for a while and returned to Kamakura to preach his doctrines.
He later lived on Mount Minobusan.
Nichiren Shōnin, "St. Nichiren" or "Sage Nichiren"

Oo-Hie ya shi no ji o hiite hito kasumi

this large mount Hiei -
a whiff of mist
like the letter SHI

Basho age 34

Here Basho is most probably referring to a story about priest Ikkyu.
In the collection of stories about Ikkyu (Ikkyuu banashi) there is one where Ikkyu had encouraged the monks of the famous monastery at Mount Hieizan to imagine the letter SHI し to be written in one brave stroke from the top of the mountain down to the town of Sakamoto at its foot.

ooji oya mago no sakae ya kaki mikan

grandfather, father,
grandchildren all flourishing -
persimmons, mikan oranges

Written in 1691
Basho had been invited to the villa of a very rich person named 兎苓 in Katata. This is a greeting hokku to congratulate his host on his riches. The garden was full of trees with colorful fruit.

Oomi-gaya ase ya sazanami yoru no toko / Oomigaya

mosquito net from Omi -
my sweat - gentle waves
my bed at night

Written in 1677, Basho age 34

When using this famous mosquito net in Edo, the poet can remember the gentle waves of Lake Biwa.
sazanami is a makurakotoba "pillow word" of Lake Biwa.

two kigo for summer
Oomigaya mosquito net from Omi (near lake Biwa)
Naragaya mosquito net from Nara
These two regions were especially famous for the fine mosquito nets.

Ootsu e no fude no hajime wa nani botoke

the first brush stroke
for an Otsu-E painting -
which Buddha will it be ?

Oranda mo hana ni ki ni keri uma ni kura 

The Dutchmen have come
to watch the cherry blossoms !
put the saddle on my horse

Here the word ORANDA stands for the people of the country, who had access to Nagasaki and once a year an ambassador came all the way to Edo to meet the Shogun.
This year it was just around the third lunar month, when the cherry trees just started to blossom.
The merchants with their "yellow" blond beards were a special treat for the Japanese onlookers.

Written in 1679

One source explains : Basho received notic that the Dutch merchant delegation were out looking at cherry blossoms, so he told his servant "Hurry up, get the saddle for my horse!"
The hokku has the cut marker KERI at the end of line 2.

The Dutchmen, too, 

for cherry flowers have come 

on horses saddles. 

(Tr. Helen Shigeko Isaacson)


Hollanders too
have come for the blossoms ---
saddle a horse!

The Hollanders in the hokku refer to a procession of the Dutch consul and his attendants who came from Nagasaki to Edo to pay respects to the shogun in the spring. The hokku's first two phrases were borrowed from a well-known passage in the no play Kurama Tengu, which had in turn utilized a waka by Minamoto Yorimasa (1104-80):

hana sakaba tsugemu to iishi yamazato no
tsukai wa kitari uma ni kura oke

When the blossoms bloom,
will you let me know? I had asked
the forest ranger . . .
Now that I hear him coming,
put a saddle on my horse!
(Tr. and Comment by Makoto Ueda)

even the dutch
are here for the blossoms
saddle my nag!
(Tr. Robin D. Gill)

Dutch learning - rangaku
by extension “Western learning”
is a body of knowledge developed by Japan through its contacts with the Dutch enclave of Dejima, which allowed Japan to keep abreast of Western technology and medicine in the period when the country was closed to foreigners, 1641–1853, because of the Tokugawa shogunate’s policy of national isolation (sakoku).

In the SAIJIKI, there are a lot of food items "from Holland"

oranda ichigo - "Holland strawberries"
oranda jisha - "lettuce from Holland"
oranda kiji kakushi - Spargel beans blossoms
oranda - kind of endomame beans
oranda yaki - "Holland waffles"  - a kind of Imagawa yaki waffle

oranda sekichiku - "carnation from Holland".
oranda nadeshiko- Dianthus caryophyllus
oranda genge - "Dutch clover weed" clover from Holland
oranda shishigashira - goldfish from Holland  
oranda tsutsuji - "Azalea from Holland"

osana na ya shiranu okina no maruzukin

a name for a boy -
the round hood of an old man
I never met

Basho age 41 or later.
A pun with the Chinese characters (?).

kigo for winter :
a maruzukin was used by elderly men.
Also called hooroku zukin or Daikoku zukin
- - -

Matsunaga Teitoku

His other names are
Shooyuu - "Carefree wandering"
Choozumaru, Endamaru and some more.
He was the center of the
TEIMON HAIKAI group. Teimonha.

He was a friend of Hayashi Razan (1583 - 1657)
Hayashi Dōshun, a Japanese Neo-Confucian philosopher, serving as a tutor and an advisor to the first four shoguns of the Tokugawa bakufu.

The poet name of Teitoku was Choozumaru / Chozumaru, a name quite familiar for Matsuo Basho and all haikai poets. Basho belonged to the "Teimon school of haikai", but he never met Teitoku in person.
Chozumaru "Boy with a long head" reminds the normal reader more of the name of a young boy, but not of a grown-up.

There was also a famous portrait of Soogi / Sogi (1421―1502), a renku master of the Muromachi period. It is said to have been quite close to the facial features of the master.
But it comes with the following inscription:

utsushi oku waga kage nagara yo no uki mo
shiranu okina zo urayamarenuru

Though it seems
to show me,
I find envy
the old man in the picture
who knows not the world's sadness!
(Tr. H. Mack Horton)

ran no ka ya choo no tsubasa ni takimono su

fragrance of orchids -
it clings to the wings of a butterfly
like incense

fragrant orchid—
into a butterfly’s wings
it breathes incense
(Tr. Anonymous)

Lady butterfly
perfumes wings by floating
over the orchid.
(Tr. Beilenson)

The butterfly is perfuming
It's wings in the scent
Of the orchid.
(Tr. R.H. Blyth)

The orchid's perfume
clings to the butterfly's wings
like temple incense
(Tr. Sam Hamill)

orchid breathing
incense into
butterfly wings
(Tr. Lucien Stryck)

There is the cut marker YA at the end of line 1

ran no ka ya choo no tsubasa ni takimono su
transformed in normal Japanese:
ran no ka ga choo no tsubasa ni takimono suru yoo desu

ro no koe nami o utte harawata kooru / yo ya namida

the sound of oars beating the waves
brings my bowels to a chill
in the evening - tears

Sounds of an oar hitting waves
my bowels get frozen
tears in the night
(Tr. Natsuishi )

The kireji YA is in the middle of the last section of 5.

Modernity and anti-urbanism in Basho Matsuo

A haiku of 10, 7 and 5 syllables in Japanese talks grievously about his solitude and poverty. It is true that Basho’s newly awakened anti-urbanism gave to his haiku poems mental depth and sonority, but his former urban training in playing with the multiple meanings of words provided him with the means to express depth in few words at his will. It is impossible to express something without sophisticated rhetoric, thus it can be said that Basho’s prior training provided him with an urbane sense that had accumulates throughout his education and shown hitherto in his published documents.

In addition to his retirement from being a haiku master, Basho made a trip to Western Japan under severe conditions from 1684 to 1685. The notes and haiku poems from this trip were edited into a work “Nozarashi Kikô” (Travel Sketch of Weather-Exposed Skeleton). Haiku poetry included in it announces a renewed haiku poetics of Basho based on his growing anti-urbanism.

ryuuguu mo kyoo no shioji ya doyoo boshi

there is a tide way
to the Dragon palace today -
airing all things

Written in 1677, third day of the third lunar month
This is the year when Basho decided, at age 34, to become a professional "haikai master".
This was the day of the great spring flood tide.
The sea receeded so much that even the folks at the Dragon Palace could air their belongings on this occasion.
This hokku shows the gentle humor and vivid imagination of Basho, mixing real events with old legends.

The legend of Urashima Tarō and the Ryūgū-jō the Dragon Palace

Saigyoo no iori mo aran hana no niwa

almost like
the hermitage of Saigyo -
this garden with cherry blossoms

Written about 1684 or later.
At temple Nanshooji / Nansho-Ji in Koga, Mie

Naitoo Rosen / Naito Rosen
(1655 - 1733)
died in 1738, at age 79.
He was the second son of the lord of Iwaki, Fukushima domain. When his elder brother died, he had to take over the family affairs, but retired on grounds of bad health in 1682.
Now he could spend time with his hobby, haikai, in the villa of his domaine in Azabu, Edo, and was a member of the Edo Shomon, disciples of Basho.

sakazuki no shita yuku kiku ya kutsuki bon

below the sake cup
there is a chrysanthemum -
tray from Kitsuki

a laquer tray from the Kutsuki region, Saga
and the story of the rejuvenating
Yoro Waterfall - Yoro no taki
Kitsuki bon - tray from Kitsuki
laquered round trays of the Edo period, mostly with a chrysanthemum or flower pattern

Written in 1675, Basho age 32.
He took the inspiration from an old song, Yooroo / Yoro.
The sake in the small cup is overflowing rapidly and becomes the famous waterfall of Yoro. Its flow looks like the chrysanthemums flowing in the river.

Yōrō Falls (Yōrō no Taki) is a waterfall in Yōrō Park located in the town of Yōrō, Yōrō District, Gifu, Japan.
The water from the falls is praised for its high quality, and is mentioned in a legend that tells the story of a dedicated son who offered the water, which tasted like sake to his ailing father who, upon drinking it, was revive.

The Empress Genshō, who visited this area, renamed the period of her reign "Yōrō" saying, "Rei Springs are beautiful springs. And so doth nourish the old. Perhaps it be the spirit of the waters. I do [hereby] give amnesty under heaven, and fix the third year of the Reiki (era) anew to year 1 of the Yōrō (era)."

Yooroo - Yoro - A Noh Play
It was the time of the twenty-first Emperor Yūryaku. His majesty was informed of a rumor of a miraculous spring in Motosu of Mino Province (Present-day Gifu Prefecture) and dispatched an imperial investigator to find out about it. At the site, the investigator meets an old woodcutter and his son who had found the spiritual spring. When the imperial investigator asks, they tell the story of how they found the spring and how they started to call it "Yōrō no Taki Waterfall."  <snip>

sakazuki ya yamaji no kiku to kore o hosu

this sake cup -
with chrysanthemums of a mountain road
I am going to drink it all

Basho age 36
on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, the Chrysanthemum Festival

His sake cup had a pattern of chrysanthemums, so the sake looked almost as collected dew from the petals. He who drinks sake from this cup every day will surely live a long life.

To collect the dew on the chrysanthemum petals and drink it would bring you long life (chooju). The Chrysanthemum Flower Festival on the 9th of September is also one to celebrate one's wish for longevity.

samazama no koto omoidasu sakura kana

so many things
that I remember -
these cherry blossoms

Basho nishiki -
a brocade woven by so many hands

I want to thank all my online friends for the strong support and help with this project.
I hope to be weaving this thread for the next few years.

kusa nishiki, the brocade of the autumn plants, is of course a kigo.

samidare ni kakurenu mono ya Seta no hashi

in the endless rain of June
this one is not hidden -                                                                              
the great bridge of Seta

samidare ... rain during the rainy season, now in June.

samidare ya ryuutoo aguru Bantaroo

samidare rain -
the "Dragon Lantern" shines
from the flood warden's hut

Written in 1677, Basho at age 34

Bantaro, tsujiban kidoban is a flood warden or bridge warden, who has to keep an eye on the water level to warn people of imminent danger. They were very important in the Edo period.
banta - caretaker of something
When the flood warden puts out his lamp to warn people, it looks almost like the "Dragon Lamp", a natural phenomenon observed along the seacoast of Japan.
Basho had worked for the Water Department of the Edo Government and maybe spent some time as a Bantaro himself.

This is a hokku where Basho pictures the customs of the Edo period very well.

ryuutoo - "dragon lantern"  
A phenomenon at the Ariakekai sea in Kagoshima, Kyushu, in the evening hours.
It is also seen in other parts of Japan as a light that the Dragon God sends out to honor the deities of Shinto and Buddhism in Japan.
kigo for mid-autumn

samidare - rain in the fifth lunar month  
Now it refers mostly to the rain during the Rainy Season.

mizu bannin - water supervisors under the mizu bugyoo of Edo

saru o kiku hito sutego ni aki no kaze ika ni

those who listen for the monkeys:
what of this child
in the autumn wind?

Why did this happen? Were you hated by your father or neglected by your mother? Your father did not hate you, your mother did not neglect you. This simply is from heaven, and you can only grieve over your fate."

you listening to a monkey—
to an abandoned child in the autumn
wind, what . . . ?

I have rendered the English a bit more closely to the original than most translators, who usually do not reflect the contrast between the poem’s longish opening phrases and abruptly ending rhythm (7–7–5) or the awkward mid-phrase break, and often fill in some blanks, making it obvious that the first line refers to a sound traditionally felt as sad, that presumably the child is crying, and that the last line might be expanded to “What would you say to (or do about) this dying child?” In other words, they like to tell us what the poem (supposedly) means in an expanded paraphrase, rather than letting us wrestle with it a bit ourselves.

As Makoto Ueda has pointed out, the Chinese conceit of sadness as the characteristic emotion of a monkey’s cry was well known to Bashô and shows up in Japanese poems as well (103–04). It appears in many Tang Dynasty poems, including, for English readers, Ezra Pound’s famous rendition of a Li Po poem entitled “The River Merchant’s Wife.” In the prose passage of the diary where Bashô’s poem appears, he tells of tossing some food to the child as he goes by. While some Western commentators on Bashô’s poem have decried the Master’s indifference, Japanese writers note that leaving a young child out to die was not unheard of in those difficult times, and that Bashô’s poem directly challenges the polite sadness of the Sino-Japanese tradition with this real-life example of a truly sad event.
William J. Higginson
(modern haiku)

the monkey’s cry
a child abandoned
autumn wind
(Tr. Michael Haldane)

The people mentioned the monkey' sad cries,
What would they say about this child
Deserted in the autumn wind?
(Tr. Oseko)

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