MATSUO BASHO (1644-1694)

Translations of Kono michi ya / yuku hito mashi ni / aki no kure [along this road / goes no one / this autumn evening]
Translations of Fuku ike ya! / Kawazu tobikomu /Mizu no oto [An old pond! / A frog jumps in / Splaaash!!!]
Basho's haiku

Called Kinsaku, in childhood ,and Matsuo Munefusa in his later days, the poet adopted the name Basho (lit., banana tree) around 1681, after moving into a hut with a banana tree alongside. His father was a low-ranking samurai from the Iga Province. To be a samurai, Basho serviced for the local lord Todo Yoshitada (Sengin). who was not really fond of writing haikaii. Thus, his first haiku were published ubder a pseudonim Sobo. Basho made many journeus through Japan, and one of the most famous went to the north, where he wrote Oku no hosomichi (1694). He fell wery ill in Osaka, during his last trip. His students asked him to leave a parting poem but Vasho replied that each of his poem is a poems of death. Nevertheless, he wrote one more haiku that indicates that, even dying, he was still thinking of traveling and writing poetry:

Fallen sick on a journey
In dreams I run wildly
Over a withered moor.

At the time of his death, Basho had more than 2000 students.


Kono michi ya
yuku hito mashi ni
aki no kure
Lit: This road!
goes person without it
aotumn of evening

along this road
goes no one
this autumn evening
(translatied by Eido Shimano Roshi, the abbot of Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-Ji, the first American Rinzai Zen monastery; found on the "Gate Rock," on the way to this monastery)

This road!
with no one going -
Autumn evening.

(translated by Robert Aitken Roshi
the author of Zen Wave)

all along this road
not a single soul
only autumn evening

this road
no one goes down it
autumn evening

this road
with no man traveling on it
autumn darkness falls

no one travels
along this way but I
this autumn evening


Fuku ike ya!
Kawazu tobikomu
Mizu no oto
Lit: Old pond!
frog jumps in
water of sound

An old pond!
A frog jumps in
The old pond, ah!
A frog jumps in:
The water's sound
(translated by D.T. Suzuki
Zen and Japanese Culture)

The old pond;
A frog jumps in
The sound of the water

(translated by Robert Aitken Roshi
the author of Zen Wave)
The old pond,
A frog jumps in:.
(translated by Allan Watts)

Old pond,
a frog


The first soft snow!
Enough to bend the leaves
Of the jonquil
In the cicada's cry
No sign can foretell
How soon it must die.
In all the rains of May
there is one thing not hidden -
the bridge at Seta Bay.

The years first day
thoughts and loneliness;
the autumn dusk is here.

Clouds appear
give men a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.
Harvest moon:
around the pond I wander
the night's gone.

Poverty's child
he starts to grind the rice,
and gazes at the moon.

No blossoms no moon,
he's drinking sake
Won't you come and see
loneliness? Just one leaf
from the kiri tree.

Come, let's go
Till we're buried

Wintry day
On my horse
A frozen shadow
Temple bells die out.
The fragrant blossoms remain.
A perfect evening!

Cool crescent moon
shining faintly high above
farther Black Mountain

Under a crescent moon
the field grows hazy
bright wheat flowers
now I see her face
the old woman abandoned
the moon her only companion


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