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A Selection of Matsuo Basho's Haiku

 
   

 

   

Scarecrow in the hillock
Paddy field --
How unaware!  How useful!

Passing through the world
Indeed this is just
Sogi's rain shelter.

A wild sea-
In the distance over Sado
The Milky Way.

The she cat -
Grown thin
From love and barley.

How wild the sea is, 
and over Sado Island, 
the River of Heaven

Morning and evening
Someone waits at Matsushima!
One-sided love.

Wrapping dumplings in 
bamboo leaves, with one finger 
she tidies her hair 

On Buddha's birthday 
a spotted fawn is born –
just like that 

On Buddha's deathday, 
wrinkled tough old hands pray – 
the prayer beads' sound 

I like to wash,
the dust of this world
In the droplets of dew.

With dewdrops dripping, 
I wish somehow I could wash 
this perishing world 

Won't you come and see
loneliness? Just one leaf
from the kiri tree.

moonless night...
a powerful wind embraces
the ancient cedars

Behind Ise Shrine, 
unseen, hidden by the fence, 
Buddha enters nirvana 

This ruined temple 
should have its sad tale told only 
by a clam digger 

in my new clothing
i feel so different, i must
look like someone else

low tide morning...
the willow skirts are tailed
in stinking mud

A green willow,
dripping down into the mud,
at low tide.  

a clear waterfall —
into the ripples
fall green pine-needles

overhanging pine...
adding its mite of needles
to the waterfall

The pine tree of Shiogoshi
Trickles all night long
Shiny drops of moonlight.

Culture's beginnings: 
rice-planting songs from the heart 
of the country 

Singing, planting rice, 
village songs more lovely 
than famous city poems 

Spring air --
Woven moon
And plum scent.

Heated spring air
In tiny waves of an inch or two -
Above wintery grass.

Fresh spring!
The world is only Nine days old -
These fields and mountains!

Spring!
A nameless hill
in the haze.

it is spring!
a hill without a name
in thin haze

Oh, these spring days!
A nameless little mountain,
wrapped in morning haze!

Spring too, very soon!
They are setting the scene for it --
plum tree and moon.

From all directions
Winds bring petals of cherry
Into the grebe lake.

Under the image of Buddha
All these spring flowers
Seem a little tiresome.

The leafless cherry,
Old as a toothless woman,
Blooms in flowers,
Mindful of its youth.

That great blue oak 
indifferent to all blossoms 
appears more noble

The oak tree stands
noble on the hill even in
cherry blossom time

Spring rain
conveyed under the trees
in drops.

Spring rain
Leaking through the roof,
Dripping from the wasps' nest.

In this warm spring rain,
tiny leaves are sprouting
from the eggplant seed

The sun's way:
hollyhocks turn toward it
through all the rains of May.

Spring departs.
Birds cry
Fishes' eyes are filled with tears

No blossoms and no moon,
and he is drinking sake
all alone!

Temple bells die out.
The fragrant blossoms remain.
A perfect evening!

A little girl under a peach tree,
Whose blossoms fall into the entrails
Of the earth.

By the old temple,
peach blossoms;
a man treading rice.

Unknown spring --
Plum blossom
Behind the mirror.

With plum blossom scent, 
this sudden sun emerges 
along a mountain trail 

Very brief:
Gleam of blossoms in the treetops
On a moonlit night.

From among the peach-trees
"Blooming everywhere,"
The first cherry blossoms.

A lovely spring night 
suddenly vanished while we 
viewed cherry blossoms

From every direction 
cherry blossom petals blow 
into Lake Biwa 

Kannon's* tiled temple 
roof floats far away in clouds 
of cherry blossoms 
(Bodhisattva of Compassion)

From all these trees – 
in salads, soups, everywhere – 
cherry blossoms fall 

Cedar umbrellas, off 
to Mount Yoshimo for 
the cherry blossoms.

On a journey,
Resting beneath the cherry blossoms,
I feel myself to be in a Noh play.

in the blossoms’ shade
as in the noh drama
a traveller sleeps

Clouds of cherry blossoms! 
Is that temple bell in Ueno 
or Asakusa? 

The temple bell stops.
But the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.

all the more I wish to see
in those blossoms at dawn
the face of a god

Searching storehouse eaves, 
rapt in plum blossom smells, 
the mosquito hums 

Bush clover in blossom waves
Without spilling
A drop of dew.

the moon still is
though it seems far from home
Suma in summer

Taking a nap,
Feet planted
Against a cool wall.

Melon
In morning dew,
mud-fresh.

Wet with morning dew 
and splotched with mud, the melon 
looks especially cool 

The old pond:
a frog jumps in,-
the sound of water.

Frog pond --
A leaf falls in
Without a sound

The old pond;
the frog.
Plop!

At the ancient pond 
a frog plunges into 
the sound of water 

Summer moon -
Clapping hands,
I herald dawn.

Mogami River, yanking
The burning sky
Into the sea.

Yellow rose petals
Thunder -
A waterfall.

Cold white azalea -
Lone nun
Under thatched roof.

Three months after we saw
Cherry blossoms together
I came to see the glorious
Twin trunks of the pine.

I felt quite at home,
As if it were mine sleeping lazily
In this house of fresh air.

June clouds,
At ease on
Arashiyama Peak.

Octopus traps - 
summer’s moonspun dreams, 
soon ended. 

Summer in the world;
floating on the waves
of the lake.

in your summer-room...
garden and mountain going too
as we slowly walk

Ugoku ha mo
Naku osoroshiki
Natsu kodachi
Even leaves don't move
Awesome is the
Summer grove

The summer's grass!
all that's left
of ancient warriors' dreams.

Summer grasses:
all that remains of great soldiers’
imperial dreams

A thicket of summer grass
Is all that remains
Of the dreams of ancient warriors.

All the rains of June
it brings together, and it is swift --
the river Morgami.

Summer zashiki
Make move and enter
The mountain and the garden.

This hot day swept away 
into the sea by the 
Mogami River 

A lightning gleam:
into darkness travels
a night heron's scream.

Along the roadside,
blossoming wild roses
in my horse’s mouth

The farmer's roadside 
hedge provided lunch for 
my tired horse

My horse
Clip-clopping over the fields--Oh ho!
I too am part of the picture!

All day in grey rain
hollyhocks follow the sun's
invisible road

An ivy spray
Trained up over the wall
And a few bamboos
Inviting a tempest.

How many priests
How many morning glories
Have perished under the pine
Eternal as law?

along the mountain road
somehow it tugs at my heart—
a wild violet

Traveling this high 
mountain trail, delighted 
by violets 

looking carefully,
a shepherds purse is blooming
under the fence

petal by petal
yellow mountain roses fall—
sound of rapids

Petals of the mountain rose
Fall now and then,
To the sound of the waterfall?

The petals tremble
on the yellow mountain rose –
roar of the rapids

Long conversations 
beside blooming irises – 
joys of life on the road 

The lilies!
The stems, just as they are,
the flowers, just as they are.

The bee emerging
from deep within the peony
departs reluctantly

Slender, so slender
its stalk bends under dew --
little yellow flower

For those who proclaim
they’ve grown weary of children,
there are no flowers

Exhausted, I sought 
a country inn, but found 
wisteria in bloom 

Morning glory trailing --
All day the gate-
bolt's fastened.

Breakfast enjoyed 
in the fine company of 
morning glories 

The morning glories 
bloom, securing the gate 
in the old fence 

bush-clover flowers —
they sway but do not drop
their beads of dew

Flower
under harvest sun - stranger
To bird, butterfly.

without turning
into a butterfly, autumn deepens
for the worm

Deep into autumn
and this caterpillar
still not a butterfly

A caterpillar
this deep in fall
still not a butterfly

With every gust of wind,
the butterfly changes its place
on the willow.

On the white poppy,
a butterfly’s torn wing
is a keepsake

butterflies flit…
that is all, amid the field
of sunlight

butterflies flit
in a field of sunlight
that is all

Kochira muke
Ware mo sabishiki
Aki no kure
Will you turn toward me?
I am lonely too,
This autumn evening.

As firmly cemented clam-shells
Fall apart in autumn,
So I must take to the road again,
Farewell, my friends.

Farewell, my old fan.
Having scribbled on it,
What could I do but tear it
At the end of summer?

kono aki wa nande
toshiyoru kumo ni tori
this autumn
as-for why grow old
cloud to bird

this autumn
why am I aging so?
to the clouds a bird

this autumn
as reason for growing old
a cloud and a bird

the whole family
all with white hair and canes
visiting graves

souls' festival
today also there is smoke
from the crematory

lotus pond
as they are unplucked
Souls' Festival

Buddha's Death Day
from wrinkled praying hands
the rosaries' sound

not to think of yourself
as someone who did not count --
Festival of the Souls

all night
autumn winds being heard
behind the mountains

so clear the sound
echoes to the Big Dipper
the fulling block

taken in my hand
it will vanish in hot tears
autumn frost

bright red
the pitiless sun
autumn winds

autumn wind
broken with sadness
his mulberry stick

autumn winds
in the sliding door's opening
a sharp voice

autumn wind:
as thickets in fields are
Fuwa's barriers

people no longer live
at the Fuwa Barrier
in a house with wooden eaves

weathered bones
just thinking of the wind
it pierces my body

in the world outside
is it harvesting time?
the grass of my hut

for one touched by monkey cries
how is it when a child's abandoned
in autumn winds

speaking out
my lips are cold
in autumn wind

autumn wind
in Ise's shrine cemetery
even more lonely

walking on and on
even through I fall down sick
in fields of clover

from this very day
erase the inscription with dew
on the bamboo hat

autumn colors
without a pot
of red-brown soup

turn this way!
I too feel lonely
late in autumn

Stone Mountain
whiter than the stones
autumn wind

borrowing sleep
from the scarecrow's sleeves
midnight frost

I would like to use 
that scarecrow's tattered clothes 
in this midnight frost 

along this road
going with no one
autumn evening

autumn deepens
the man next door
how is he doing?

saying farewell to people
farewell being said to me brings
autumn in Kiso

I didn't die!
the end of a journey
is autumn nightfall

autumn nears
my heart is drawn
to a four-mat room

autumn night
striking and making it crumble
our small talk

blowing stones
flying from the volcano Asama
autumn gale

chrysanthemum's scent
in the garden a worn-out sandal
just the sole

rainy day
the world's autumn closes
Boundary Town

banana plant in autumn storm
rain drips into tub
hearing the night

departing autumn
with hands spread open
chestnut burs

Kiso's chestnuts
for a person of the floating world
a souvenir

Over the ruins of a shrine
a chestnut tree
still lifts its candles

I’ll take these back
for the city slickers –
sour chestnuts

The Chestnut by the eaves
In magnificent bloom
Passes unnoticed
By men of this world.

though autumn winds blow
it is still green
bur of the chestnut

The winds of fall
are blowing, yet how green
the chestnut burr.

also green
it should remain a thing
the pepper pod

at Nara
the fragrance of chrysanthemums
ancient Buddhas

drinking morning tea
the monk is peaceful
the chrysanthemum blooms

while growing thin
without a reason
the chrysanthemum bud

white chrysanthemum
catching in one's eye
nary a speck of dust

chrysanthemums
flowers blooming
in the stones

autumn coolness
hand and hand paring away
eggplants -- cucumbers

don't imitate me
we are not two halves
of a muskmelon

ear of the pine tree
mushroom on a strange tree
with a leaf stuck to it

the village so old
there's not a single house
without a persimmon tree

autumn begins
sea and sprouting rice fields
one green

failing health
chewing dried seaweed
my teeth grate on sand

grabbing at straws
the strength to bear
our parting

on this mountain
tell me of its sorrow
wild-yam digger

after the flowers
all there is left for my haiku
wisteria beans

The beginning of autumn;
The sea and fields,
All one same green.

In the bitter radish that
bites into me, I feel the
autumn wind

Will you turn toward me?
I am lonely, too,
this autumn evening.

Cho tori-no
Shiranu hana ari
Aki no sora
Unknown to birds and butterflies
A flower blooms
The autumn sky

a strange flower
for birds and butterflies
the autumn sky

Autumn approaches 
and the heart begins to dream 
of four-tatami rooms 

Wild boars and all
are blown along with it --
storm-wind of fall!

A autumn wind
More white
Than the rocks in the rocky mountain.

kono michi ya yuku hito nashi ni aki no kure
this road go
person nonexistent
with autumn’s evening

On this road
where nobody else travels
autumn nightfall

All along this road 
not a single soul – only 
autumn evening comes 

Along this way,
no travellers.
Dusk in autumn.

My way –
no-one on the road
and it’s autumn, getting dark

The first day of the year:
thoughts come - and there is loneliness;
the autumn dusk is here.

Cold as it was
We felt secure sleeping together
In the same room.

Chilling autumn rains 
curtain Mount Fuji, then make it 
more beautiful to see 

The winter storm
Hid in the bamboo grove
And quieted away.

Should I hold them in my hand,
They will disappear
In the warmth of my tears,
Icy strings of frost.

Hailstones
Glancing off the rocks
At Stony Pass.

Awake at night,
The lamp low,
The oil freezing.

Winter rain --
The field stubble
Has blackened.

Crossing long fields,
frozen in its saddle,
my shadow creeps by

Awakened at midnight 
by the sound of the water jar 
cracking from the ice 

Water-drawing rites, 
icy sound of monks' getas 
echo long and cold 

On the cow shed
A hard winter rain;
Cock crowing.

The winter leeks
Have been washed white --
How cold it is!

Winter downpour - 
even the monkey 
needs a raincoat. 

Winter solitude--
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.

I'm a wanderer 
so let that be my name – 
the first winter rain 

Winter seclusion – 
sitting propped against 
the same worn post 

On New Year's Day 
each thought a loneliness
as winter dusk descends 

Along my journey 
through this transitory world, 
new year's housecleaning 

Year’s end, all 
corners of this 
floating world, swept.

This first fallen snow 
is barely enough to bend 
the jonquil leaves 

The first snow
the leaves of the daffodil
bending together

The first snow,
Just enough to bend
The leaves of the daffodils.

Tethered horse;
snow
in both stirrups.

First snow
Falling
On the half-finished bridge.

On the polished surface
Of the divine glass,
Chaste with flowers of snow.

The crescent lights
The misty ground.
Buckwheat flowers.

Come out to view 
the truth of flowers blooming 
in poverty 

New Year’s first snow -- ah --
just barely enough to tilt
the daffodil

Polished and polished
clean, in the holy mirror 
snow flowers bloom 

Watching for snow,
the boozers’ faces –
a flash of lightning

fragrant orchid—
into a butterfly’s wings
it breathes incense

Wake, butterfly -
It's late, we've miles
To go together.

Butterfly -
Wings curve into
White poppy.

Heard, not seen, 
the camellia poured rainwater 
when it leaned 

Misty rain;
Today is a happy day,
Although Mt. Fuji is unseen.

Even a wild boar
With all other things
Blew in this storm.

The wind from Mt. Fuji
I put it on the fan.
Here, the souvenir from Edo.

Tremble, oh my gravemound, 
in time my cries will be 
only this autumn wind 

shaking the grave
my weeping voice
autumn wind

Sleep on horseback,
The far moon in a continuing dream,
Steam of roasting tea.

where's the moon?
as the temple bell is --
sunk in the sea

The moon about to appear,
all present tonight
with their hands on their knees.

Black Cloudbank broken
Scatters in the night...Now see
Moon-lighted mountains!

Husking rice, 
a child squints up 
to view the moon. 

a peasant’s child
husking rice, pauses
to look at the moon

The clouds come and go, 
providing a rest for all 
the moon viewers 

Clouds come from time to time --
and bring to men a chance to rest
from looking at the moon.

All the fields hands 
enjoy a noontime nap after 
the harvest moon

Whore and monk, we sleep 
under one roof together, 
moon in a field of clover 

Now I see her face, 
the old woman, abandoned, 
the moon her only companion 

A cuckoo cries, 
and through a thicket of bamboo 
the late moon shines 

This bright harvest moon 
keeps me walking all night long 
around the little pond 

the moon:
I wandered around the pond
all night long

the setting moon
the thing that remains
four corners of his desk

In the moonlight a worm
silently
drills through a chestnut

All my friends
viewing the moon –
an ugly bunch

Among moon gazers 
at the ancient temple grounds 
not one beautiful face 

viewing the moon
no one at the party
has such a beautiful face

The moon is the guide,
Come this way to my house,
So says the host of a wayside inn.

occasional clouds
one gets a rest
from moon-viewing

hair shaved in a moon-shape
with their hands on their knees
in the early hours of night

buying a measure box
now I feel differently
about moon-viewing

sleeping in the temple
the serious-looking face
is moon-viewing

the full moon
seven story-songs of a woman
turning towards the sea

the farmer's child
rests from husking rice
then sees the moon

famous moon!
circling the pond all night
even to the end

the moon so pure
a wandering monk carries it
across the sand

harvest moon
northland weather
uncertain skies

full autumn moon
to my gate comes rising
crested tide

thin from the Kiso trip
and still not yet recovered
the late harvest moon

blue seas
breaking waves smell of rice wine
tonight's moon

Autumn full moon, 
the tides slosh and foam 
coming in

Mii Temple
knocking on the gate for a wish
today's moon

your hermitage
the moon and chrysanthemums
plus an acre of rice fields

flower of the harvest moon?
it only looks that way
a cotton field

butt of the tree
see in the cut end
today's moon

on a bare branch
a crow has settled
autumn dusk

A solitary 
crow on a bare branch- 
autumn evening 

Kareeda ni
karasu no tomari keri
aki no kure
On dead branches
Crows remain perched
At autumn's end.

The voices of plovers
Invite me to stare into the darkness
Of the Starlit Promontory.

Dark night -
Plover crying
For its nest.

Sparrow, spare
The horsefly
Dallying in flowers.

in blossoms
a horsefly plays… don’t eat it
friend-sparrow

Sparrows
In rape-field,
Blossom-viewing.

Sparrows in eves
Mice in ceiling -
Celestial music.

Baby mice in their nest
squeak in response
to the young sparrows

Where cuckoo
Vanishes -
An island.

higher than a skylark
resting in the sky
on a mountain pass

above the moor
not attached to anything
a skylark singing

though a skylark sings
beating inside
the pheasant's sad cry

All the day long-
yet not long enough for the skylark,
singing, singing.

Do the tea-pickers also,
hidden in the bushes,
hear the hototogishu?

Skylark on moor --
Sweet song
Of non-attachment.

Over skylark's song
Noh cry
Of Pheasant

resting higher
than a lark in the sky
a mountain pass

Even these long days 
are not nearly long enough 
for the skylarks to sing 

By a singular stroke
Of luck, I saw a solitary hawk circling
Above the promontory of Irago.

Unknowingly he guided us
over pathless hills
with wisps of hay

My eyes following
until the bird was lost at sea
found a small island

A mountain pheasant cry
fills me with fond longing for
father and mother

The lightning flashes
And slashing through the darkness,
A night-heron’s screech.

O bush warblers!
Now you’ve shit all over
my rice cake on the porch

the sea darkens —
the voices of the wild ducks
are faintly white

Seas slowly darken 
and the wild duck's plaintive cry 
grows faintly white 

very exciting
yet after awhile so sad
cormorant fishing

a sick wild duck
falling down with the dark cold
to sleep overnight

cloud-parting friend!
temporarily this wild goose
must go away

With a warbler for 
a soul, it sleeps peacefully, 
this mountain willow

The warbler sings 
among new shoots of bamboo 
of coming old age 

Delight, then sorrow, 
aboard the cormorant 
fishing boat 

But for a woodpecker 
tapping at a post, no sound 
at all in the house 

Even in Kyoto, 
how I long for Kyoto 
when the cuckoo sings 

Lead my pony 
across this wide moor to where 
the cuckoo sings 

The shallows –
a crane’s thighs splashed
in cool waves

A dragonfly, trying to –
oops, hang on to the upside
of a blade of grass

temple bell
also sounds like it is
cicada's voice

cricket
forgetting sounds with its cry
by the fireplace

in the cow shed
mosquito's voice darkens
lingering heat

bagworm's place
it seems to be inside
the cherry blossoms

bagworms
to hear their songs
come to my hut

spiders have a cry?
well, what is chirping
autumn's wind?

secretly at night
a worm under the moon
bores into a chestnut

With what kind of voice
would the spider cry
in the autumn wind?

Firefly viewing -
Drunken steersman,
Drunken boat.

The dragonfly
Can't quite land
On that blade of grass.

Dying cricket,
how he sings out
his life!

Gray hairs being plucked, 
and from below my pillow 
a cricket singing 

Ungraciously, under 
a great soldier's empty helmet, 
a cricket sings 

how piteous!
beneath the soldiers helmet
chirps a cricket

a terrible sound –
the gilded helmet’s
trapped cricket

Yagate shinu
Keshiki wa miezu
Semi no koe
Cicadas singing --
No sign
Of dying soon.

soon to die
yet no sign of it
in the cidada's chirpNothing in the cry
of cicadas suggests they
are about to die

Shizukasa ya
Iwa ni shimi-iru
Semi no koe
Calm and serene
The sound of a cicada
Penetrates the rock

stillness
piercing the rocks
cicada's shrill

Lonely silence, 
a single cicada's cry 
sinking into stone 

How still it is!
Stinking into the stones,
the locusts' trill.

Eaten alive by
lice and fleas -- now the horse
beside my pillow pees

at my poor hovel
there’s one thing I can offer —
small mosquitoes

The usually hateful crow:
he, too -- this morning,
on the snow!

Even that old horse
is something to see this
snow-covered morning

What luck!
The southern valley
Make snow fragrant.

Hello! Light the fire!
I'll bring inside
a lovely bright ball of snow

to Kyoto
still half the sky to go—
snowy clouds

Only half the way I came
To the ancient capital,
And above my head
Clouds heavy with snow.

Crossing half the sky, 
on my way to the capital, 
big clouds promise snow 

Not even a hat --
and cold rain falling on me?
Tut-tut! Think of that!

A cold rain starting
And no hat --
So?

under my tree-roof
slanting lines of april rain
separate to drops

The banana tree 
blown by winds pours raindrops 
into the bucket 

How admirable,
He who thinks not, "Life is fleeting,"
When he sees the lightning!

How very noble! 
One who finds no satori
in the lightning-flash 

Shake, oh grave!
The autumn wind
Is the voice of my wailing.

Ill on a journey,
all about the dreary fields
fly my broken dreams.

DEATH POEM 

Sick on my journey, 
only my dreams will wander 
these desolate moors

A weathered skeleton 
in windy fields of memory, 
piercing like a knife 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a small selection of haiku poems by Matsu Basho. Use the back button to view haiga, illustrated versions of some of these poems