You who hears the monkey cry…
From “Journal of Bleached Bones in a Field” – Matsuo Basho left Edo with man named Chiri as a companion and aide, on a trip in the eighth month of 1684. He had barely begun his journey, when, crossing the Fuji River, he heard the wail of a small child.
“I was walking along the Fuji River when I saw an abandoned child (捨子, sutego, foundling), barely two, pitifully weeping. Had his parents been unable to endure this floating world, wave-tossed as these rapids, and so left him here to wait out a life, brief as the dew? He seemed like a bush clover in autumn’s wind (秋の風, aki no kase, autumn wind)that might scatter in the evening or wither in the morning.
I tossed him some food from my sleeve and said in passing:
Hearing the monkey’s howl,
Or an abandoned child’s crying in the autumn wind
– Which is worse?
You, who listens to the monkey’s cry,
What of the abandoned child
Weeping in the Autumn Wind?
Basho consoles himself we these words:
Why did this happen? Were you hated by your father, neglected by your mother? Your father did not hate you, your mother did not neglect you. This simply is from heaven, and you can only grieve over your fate.
Not a flattering picture.
To me, Basho comes across as uncaring, but what is a poet to do? Especially one who follows the tenets of Buddhism. But then, did not Buddha say, “However many holy words you read or speak, what good do they do if you do not act on upon them?” (A paraphrase of verses 19 and 20 from the Dhammapada.)
Pinyin and Japanese
saru o kiku hito sutego ni aki no kaze ika ni