I just finished reading Narrow Roads to the Interior, one of Japan’s most famous literary works, in which Basho used prose and 49 haiku to describe his journey from Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to the northerly interior region known as Oku. This week’s haiku is from this book.
Here’s how Narrow Roads to the Interior begins:
The months and days are the travellers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers. Those who float away their lives on ships or who grow old leading horses are forever journeying, and their homes are wherever their travels take them. Many of the men of old died on the road, and I too for years past have been stirred by the sight of a solitary cloud drifting with the wind to ceaseless thoughts of roaming.
Last year I spent wandering along the seacoast. In autumn I returned to my cottage on the river and swept away the cobwebs. Gradually the year drew to its close. When spring came and there was mist in the air, I thought of crossing the Barrier of Shirakawa into Oku. I seemed to be possessed by the spirits of wanderlust, and they all but deprived me of my senses. The guardian spirits of the road beckoned, and I could not settle down to work.
I patched my torn trousers and changed the cord on my bamboo hat. To strengthen my legs for the journey I had moxa burned on my shins. By then I could think of nothing but the moon at Matsushima. When I sold my cottage and moved to Sampū’s villa, to stay until I started on my journey, I hung this poem on a post in my hut:
Even a thatched hut
May change with a new owner
Into a doll’s house.
This became the first of an eight-verse sequence.
Deadline: 27th September 2017
Haiku by Matsuo Bashō https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matsuo_Bash%C5%8D
Picture by Duncan Maloney https://unsplash.com/@droland