withered and bowed
the world upside down,
bamboo in the snow
shiore fusu ya yo wa sakasama no yuki no take
萎れ伏 すや世はさかさまの 雪の竹
Bashō’s Early Haiku
In 1666, after the death of his samurai master, Matsuo Bashō, age 24, moved to Kyoto to study haiku. This haiku was written shortly thereafter.
During the winter of 1666-1667, Bashō visited the home of a young couple whose child had died. Entering their home, he bowed in respect, saw face sunken faces. They too had their backs bent with sorrow.
Their inconsolable grief reminded him of a Nōh play by Zeami Motokiyo, Take no Yuki, Snow on Bamboo. In the play, a step-mother sends a young boy into the freezing snow in a bamboo grove. He dies, but the gods, moved by the grief of his father and real mother, bring him back to life.
Shiore fusu, 萎れ伏 , withered and bent down. 伏, fusu, bowing down, a mark of respect Bashō gave the grieving couple on entering their home.
Sakasama, 逆さま, literally upside down, inverted; yo wa, 世は, the world, but a word play on being unsteady or tipsy.
Yuki no Take, 雪の竹, bamboo in the snow