Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) made about 1000 haiku poems in his lifetime with the jouney around Japan. His writing “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” is the most famous haiku collection in Japan.
Here are 10 famous examples of his “Sabi” works including about old pond and frog, cicada and his death poem .
草の戸も 住替る代ぞ ひなの家
Kusa no to mo/ Sumikawaru yo zo/ Hina no ie
The door of thatched hut
Also changed the owner.
At the Doll’s Festival.
*Basho gave his house another before going on a journey. Apparently it seems that the new residents were a family with girls.
行春や 鳥啼き魚の 目は泪
Yuku haru ya/ Tori naki uwo no/ Me ha namida
Spring is passing.
The birds cry, and the fishes fill
With tears on their eyes.
*”Spring is passing” often means an eternal parting. The birds and the fishes mean Basho and his friends.
夏草や 兵どもが 夢の跡
Natsukusa ya/ Tsuwamonodomo ga/ Yume no ato
Grasses in summer.
The warriors’ dreams
All that left.
*Hiraizumi prospered as the independent country from Japan centered on Kyoto. However in the late Heian Period, the Kamakura government destroyed it.
五月雨の 降のこしてや 光堂
Samidare no/ Furinokosite ya/ Hikari-do
The early summer rain
*Hikari-do: Konjikido. One of the hall of Chusonji, in Hiraizumi.
閑けさや 岩にしみいる 蝉の声
Shizukesa ya/ Iwa ni shimiiru/ Semi no koe
Penetrating the very rock,
A cicada’s voice.
Translated by Helen Craig Mccullough
*The haiku poem at Risshakuji Temple, Yamagata Prefecture.
五月雨を あつめてはやし 最上川
Dewa. Mogami River, A Perspective View of Mount Gassan by Utagawa Hiroshige.
Samidare wo/ Atsumete Hayashi/ Mogamigawa<English>
The early summer rain,
Gathering it and fast
古池や 蛙飛び込む 水の音
Furuike ya/ Kawazu tobikomu/ Mizu no oto
To an old pond
A frog leaps in.
And the sound of the water.
物いへば 唇寒し 秋の風
Mono ieba/ Kuchibiru samushi/ Aki no kaze
The lip feel cold.
The Autum wind.
*The haiku poem expresses about that people told a bad mouth about someone. It is a rare poetry with self-discipline by Basho.
粽結ふ 片手にはさむ 額髪
Chimaki yu/ Katate ni hasamu/ Hitai gami
Tieing the Chimaki,
Other hand hold,
*Chimaki: A rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves. Eating at Boys’ Festival
旅に病んで 夢は枯野を かけ廻る
Tabi ni yande/ Yume wa kareno wo/ Kakemeguru
Sicking on journey,
My dream run about
The desolate field.
*The last haiku poems of Matsuo Basho. As in the preface of Oku-no Homichi, it is a farewell poem of him who was obsessed by a journey.