Classic Haiku: An Anthology of Poems by Basho and His Followers [NOOK Book]


With the utmost economy and skill, the haiku poet paints a vast mural on a narrow canvas. Working within the strict 17-syllable limits of the traditional Japanese form, Matsuo Basho (1644–1694) and other masters evoke elements of the natural world to conjure up timeless moods and emotions. This volume features dozens of Basho's poems as well as works by his predecessors and ten of his disciples — Kikaku, Ransetsu, Joso, and Kyoroku among them. Intended principally for readers with no knowledge of Japanese ...
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Classic Haiku: An Anthology of Poems by Basho and His Followers

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With the utmost economy and skill, the haiku poet paints a vast mural on a narrow canvas. Working within the strict 17-syllable limits of the traditional Japanese form, Matsuo Basho (1644–1694) and other masters evoke elements of the natural world to conjure up timeless moods and emotions. This volume features dozens of Basho's poems as well as works by his predecessors and ten of his disciples — Kikaku, Ransetsu, Joso, and Kyoroku among them. Intended principally for readers with no knowledge of Japanese literature, this treasury includes the original Japanese text, a transliteration, and English translations for each verse; most poems also include a brief explication.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486143156
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 5/11/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • File size: 5 MB

Read an Excerpt


By Basho, Asataro Miyamori

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14315-6


The Pre-Basho Period

(Approximately, from the middle of the 15th century to the middle of the 17th century)


Sokan (surname, Yamazaki)

A native of Omi Province; page to Shogun Ashikaga Yoshihisa, later led a hermit's life (1458-1546)

[ 1 ]



Gwanjitsu no Miru-mono ni sen Fuji-no-yama

Mount Fuji

I would keep peerless Mount Fuji A special sight for New Year's Day.


On New Year's Day, which is in Japan the most sacred day in all the year, we feel holy and are free from foul thoughts. In consequence everything we see and hear seems to have something pure and dignified about it. In particular is this the case with the snow-capped Mount Fuji. The poet thinks that this peerlessly beautiful and sacred mountain is the most fitting sight for the holiest day. Of the verses of Sokan who was, together with Moritake, the founder of haikai, this piece is the best known; and taking into consideration the condition of the haikai in this period, it is worth notice as an embodiment of some steps taken toward literary haikai.


Moritake (surname, Arakida) A high priest of the Great Ise Shrines (1472-1549)




Gwancho ya Kamiyo no koto no Omowaruru

New Year's Day

On the morning of New Year's Day, I think even of the Age of Gods.


On the morning of the very first day of the New Year the poet first of all thinks of the pre-historic Age of Gods. It is quite natural that Moritake, a high priest of the Great Shrines of Ise, should have such a pious mood on the most divine day. It may safely be said that this verse, as well known as Sokan's verse on Mount Fuji, is one of those typical poems which represent the transition period toward Basho.




Rakka eda ni Kaeru to mireba Kocho kana

A Butterfly

A fallen flower flew back to the branch! Behold! it was a flitting butterfly.


The spring was advanced and fallen flowers were fluttering down to the ground. Behold! one of them fluttered up again to the branch from which it had fallen. No, it was an illusion. Looking carefully, it proved to be a beautiful white butterfly. What a beautiful sight in the departing spring! This tiny verse well expresses the poet's regrets for fallen flowers.

* * *

Fall'n flow'r returning to the branch—
Behold! it is a butterfly.

Trans. by Basil Hall Chamberlain

I thought I saw the fallen leaves
Returning to their branches;
Alas, butterflies were they.

Trans. by Yone Noguchi

I thought: back to their branch
The fallen flowers float and rise.
I looked again—lo! 'twas the butterflies.

Trans. by Curtis Hidden Page

Where the soft drifts lie
Of fallen blossoms, dying,
Did one flutter now,
From earth to its own brown bough?
Ah, no! 'twas a butterfly!
Like fragile blossom lying.

Trans. by Clara A. Walsh

Une fleur tombée, à sa branche
Comme je la vois revenir:
C'est un papillon !

Traduit par Michel Revon




Asagao ni Kyo wa miyuran Waga yo kana

The Death Verse

Alas, my lifetime may appear A morning-glory's hour to-day.


The kind of convolvulus often called "morning-glory," much grown in Japan, blooms at dawn and fades at noon; so it becomes a symbol of the briefness of life and life's beauty.

* * *

My span of years To-day appears A morning-glory's hour.

Trans. by Curtis Hidden Page

Ah! yes, as a convolvulus To-day my lifetime will appear.

Trans. by Basil Hall Chamberlain


Shoha (surname, Satomura) A native of Nara; an instructor in renga (1521-1600)




Ume-no-hana Ka nagara utsusu Fude mo gana

The Perfume of Plum-Blossoms

Oh, for a brush which well could paint The plum-blossoms with their sweet scent!



Teitoku (surname, Matsunaga) A native of Kyto; a samurai's son; the founder of the Teitoku School of haikai (1570–1653)




Mina hito no Hirume no tane ya Aki-no-tsuki

The Autumn Moon

The cause of all men's midday naps— The autumn moon.


"The autumn moon" or "the moon" means in haiku the moon of August fifteenth of the lunar calendar, i. e. of September 22nd or 23rd of the solar calendar, which is in Japan the brightest of all full moons, owing to the particularly transparent atmosphere of this time of the year. This full moon which is the same as the English "harvest moon" is highly appreciated by all people who gaze at it far into the night. The following day, from loss of sleep, they take midday naps. In other words the harvest moon is the tane or "seed" i. e. cause of many people's midday naps. Judged by the standard of present day literary haiku, this verse, based on reasoning, is mere doggerel. The verses of Teitoku and his disciples are either such pieces, based on reasoning, or pieces whose merit consists in a play on words.

* * *

For all men 'Tis the seed of siesta— The autumn moon.

Trans. by W. G. Aston

'Tis now the season of the Harvest Moon. Men gaze the livelong night and sow the seed That brings a sweet siesta on the morrow.

Trans. by Clara A. Walsh

Pour tous les hommes, Semence du sommeil pendant le jour: La lune d'automne !

Traduit par Michel Revon



Kori to Mizu

Uchitokete Kori to mizu no Nakanaori

Ice and Water

Lo, ice and water joyfully Are reconciled to one another.


The poet means that ice, as spring grows warm, melts into water and joins unfrozen water. In other words, a joyful reconciliation takes place between ice and water. The personification, in which consists the only merit of this verse, is rather witty but can never be considered good taste. This verse belongs to the same grade as "The Autumn Moon."


Teishitsu (surname, Yasubara) A native of Kyoto; Teitoku's pupil (1609–1673)



Yoshino-Yama no Sakura

Korewa korewa To bakari hana no Yoshino-yam

The Cherry-Blossoms of Mt. Yoshino

"Oh! Oh!" was all that I could say On flower-clad Mount Yoshino.


This is a most famous verse, known to every cultured Japanese. Far more famous are the cherry-blossoms of Mount Yoshino in the province of Yamato. Yoshino is also rich in historic associations. It is there that the Emperor Go-Daigo of the Southern Court resided in exile, so to speak, and died of indignation and despair.

Let it be remembered that "flowers" in haiku always means "the cherry-blossoms"; and "flower-clad" in this verse means "covered with cherry-blossoms." The poet was overwhelmingly smitten by the beauty of the cherry-blossoms which wrapt the vales and hills of Yoshino, so that he could not but exclaim "Kore-wa! Kore-wa!" or "Oh! Oh!" Some critics say that this verse is not a good piece because this description may be applied to any other beautiful view. For instance, one might as well say:—

"Oh ! Oh!" was all that I could say On peerless snow-capped Mount Fuji.

They are quite right; but I make an exception of this verse which is a spontaneous outburst of profound admiration. I have no hesitation in calling it a beautiful verse.

* * *

O this! O this!
Far beyond words it is!
Mountain of cherry bloom, Yoshino-Yama.

Trans. by Curtis Hidden Page

Cherry-blossoms of Yoshino,
These and these only,
Unsurpassed in loveliness,
Yoshino's peerless blossoms!

Trans. by Clara A. Walsh

At lovely Yoshino
The mountain cherries here and there
Have begun to show.

Trans. by William N. Porter

Uttering only
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" I roam over
Yoshino's hills ablow.

Trans. by Inazo Nitobe

"Well well!" and "Well well!"
Is all I can say.—the flowers
On Yoshino mountain!

Trans. by Glenn Shaw

"Oh! Oh!"
All one can say,
Mount Yoshino
In flower gay.

Trans. by Kenzo Wadagaki

Cela, cela
Seulement ! En fleurs,
Le mont Yoshino !

Traduit par Michel Revon



Yowa no Tsuki

Suzushisa no Katamari nave ya Yowa no Tsuki

The Bright Moon of Midnight

The bright full moon of midnight— Perhaps a rounded sphere of coolness.


Suzushisa or "coolness" is a noun referring to summer; and of course this is the full moon of summer midnight, at sight of which one feels cool and forgets the heat of daytime. The poet likens it to a condensed block of cool, refreshing air.


Excerpted from CLASSIC HAIKU by Basho, Asataro Miyamori. Copyright © 2002 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Page,
The Pre-Bash Period,
The Bash) Period,
The Ten Great Disciples of Bash,

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