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Unformatted text preview: n Buddhism, and many of his best haiku
are the product of his intuitive and profoundly mystical response to life
and nature. Bashò’s insights are not explicitly presented. His best-known
haiku, for example, is
An ancient pond
A frog jumps in
The sound of water. Bashò has not said how wondrous it is to observe the meeting of that
which is eternal, as embodied in the ancient pond, and that which is fleeting, as represented by the frog’s jump. In the best Zen and haiku spirit,
he has simply juxtaposed the two images without subjective comment
and has left it to the reader to draw whatever meaning or meanings he
can from the poem. 196 The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture Of all Bashò’s many journeys, the most famous was one he took with
a companion into the remote northern provinces in 1689 and later immortalized in the travel account The Narrow Road of Oku (Oku no Hosomichi). Bashò’s travel accounts, of which this is by far the finest example,
were not intended to be accurate, diary-like records of his journeys.
They are highly poetic evocations of his feelings and sentiments as he
visited places famous for their natural beauty, for their association with
former poet-travelers, or for their roles in the great events of Japanese
history. As Bashò journeyed through the provinces, his fame preceded
him and he was often met by people who asked him to write haiku or to
join them in a round of linked-verse composition. But Bashò did not
need others to inspire him, and the most beautiful passages in The Narrow
Road of Oku are those in which he was moved to compose haiku upon
encountering some memorable scene or viewing a surpassingly lovely
We first climbed up to Castle-on-the-Heights, from where we could see the
Kitagami, a large river that flows down from the north. Here Yoshitsune once
fortified himself with some picked retainers, but his great glory turned in a
moment into this wilderness of grass. “Countries may fall, but their rivers
and mountains remain. When spring comes to the ruined castle, the g...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13