On March 11, 2011, we had the most powerful earthquake since records began, which struck the Pacific coast of Northeastern Honshu, Japan, triggering a massive tsunami.

 Since then I have received e-mails and messages from haiku friends worldwide, in which they have sent their condolences and prayers through haiku, haiga, tanka, short poems, or pictures.

Some of my haiku friends took up the earthquake in their blogs or journals, and others started the movements to uplift their brothers and sisters in Japan on the Internet.

 Thanks to my haiku friends, I have been greatly encouraged and uplifted without losing hope.

I have clearly realized how my friends’ contributions are helpful in feeling encouraged, and consoled, and giving relief.

They eventually lead us to hope.

 In addition, to my great surprise, I find Basho’s haiku very encouraging and consoling too.

So, let me take up Basho’s haiku in the first posting.

This is because his haiku makes me imagine what might become of devastation in 500 years.

Here is a photo of the monument of Basho’s haiku.

 

 

 

June 29, 1689

Basho arrived in Hiraizumi(平泉), Iwate Prefecture(岩手県), where he wrote the following haiku.

 

夏草やつはものどもが夢のあと         芭蕉

Natsukusa ya  tsuwamonodomo ga  yume no ato

 

Ah!  Summer grasses!

All that remains

Of the warriors’ dreams.                  Basho

 

 

 

 

R. H. Blyth translated Basho’s haiku into English in HAIKU VOLUME 3  SUMMER – AUTUMN published in1951 and gave his commentary as follows:

 

 In Tennyson’s lines,

 

Nothing in nature’s aspect indicated

That a great man was dead,

 

man and Nature are taken as two separate things. Basho takes them, quite unconsciously and instinctively, as one and the same thing. The above verse comes at the end of the following passage in Oku no Hosomichi: 

 

國破れて山河あり城春にして草青みたりと

笠打しきて時のうつるまで涙を落とし侍りぬ。

                “The state ruined, mountains and rivers remain.

               In the citadel it is spring : grass is green.”  I laid

               my kasa down and shed tears, forgetting the passage

               of time.

 

Basho was at this time, 1689, in Takadachi where Yoshitsune was attacked by Yasuhira under the orders of Yoritomo. He fought bravely but was outnumbered, and committed suicide after killing his own wife and children, exactly 500 years before. He was thirty-one years old.

Basho’s verse expresses the same grief as Toho’s for things of long ago, but does not leave us in this state of passivity and dejection. The summer grasses remind him of

 

That secret spirit of humanity

Which, mid the calm oblivious tendencies

Of nature, mid her plants, and weeds, and flowers,

And silent overgrowings, still survived.

 

Basho’s short verse contains the whole of Sohrab and Rustum, but especially the last twenty lines, beginning,

 

But the majestic River floated on,

Out of the mist and hum of that low land.

 

  The second half of a gatha by Seccho in the Hekiganroku, Case 61, is similar in spirit:

                     

                                      謀臣猛将今何在、

                 萬里清風只自知。 

 

Scheming ministers and fierce generals, where are they now?

    The cool breeze of a thousand leagues alone knows.

 

Here is a photo of the Kitakami River(北上川) and summer grasses taken at Takatachi (高館), Hiraizumi(平泉), by Hiroya Sato(佐藤弘弥) on July 4, 2004.

This is present-day Hiraizumi, 315 years after Basho visited there.

 

 

 

Lastly, let me post my haiku.

      

曙に春の産声聞こえけり          秀法

Akebono ni  haru no ubugoe  kikoe keri

 

at daybreak –

spring cries rise 

in the birth room                    Hidenori

                                                     

 

Here is a Japanese translation of R. H. Blyth’s commentary on Basho’s haiku mentioned above. Please read it as you like.

 

参考資料芭蕉の上記の句に対するR・H・ブライスの解説の和訳

 

R・H・ブライスは『俳句 大三巻 夏― 秋』を1951年に発刊。

その中でこの場面を次のように解説している。

テニソンの詩の次の二行には、「自然の側面には偉人の死を示唆するものは何もなく、人間と自然は切り離された二つのものとしてとらえられている。

芭蕉は人間と自然を全く無意識的にしかも本能的に同一のものとしてとらえている。」

上記の芭蕉の詩(俳句)は『奥の細道』の次の節の後に出ている。

國破れて山河あり城春にして草青みたりと

笠打しきて時のうつるまで涙を落とし侍りぬ。

              

芭蕉がその詩(俳句)を書いたのは1689年に義経が頼朝の命令で泰衡に攻撃された高館を訪ねていた時である。義経は勇敢に戦ったが相手は多勢、妻子を道連れに自害、ちょうど500年前のことであった。義経31歳のことである。

芭蕉の詩(俳句)は杜甫が昔の事に対して感じたものと同じ悲しみを表現しているが、私たちをそのような無抵抗と意気消沈の状態にはしない。

夏草は芭蕉に次の詩を思い起こさせるのである。

「人間性のあの隠されている精神

自然の冷静で気にとめない性向の中で、

植物、雑草、そして花の中で、

そして沈黙の蔓延の中で、依然として生き残っていた精神」

 

芭蕉の短詩(俳句)は『ソーラブとラスタム』 の全てを含んでいるが、特に次の2行で始まる最後の20行を含んでいる。

「しかしその雄大な川は漂い続けた、

その低地から立ちこめる霧とざわめきから外に」

 

碧巌録公案61則の選の後半の二句はその精神が類似している。

                  謀臣猛将今何在、

                 萬里清風只自知。 

 

「陰謀をたくらんだ大臣や猛将たち、今どこにいるだろうか。

1,000リーグ(昔の距離の単位)も離れた所の涼風だけが知っている」。

 

The next posting ‘Haiku about the Great East Japan Earthquake (2) appears on May 7.

 

― Hidenori Hiruta

 

 

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