The Autumn Wind

“Ignore the faults of others and be ignorant of your own virtues.”

Should I to say a word
My lips turn cold
In the autumn wind.

mono   ieba / kuchibirusa   samushi  / aki  no  kaze


Autumn 1691

On his return to Edo in the autumn of 1691, Bashō took up the task of editing his journal that was to become The Narrow Road to the Interior (奥の細道, Oku no Hosomichi), which was published in 1694. He had a great many visitors and wrote to a friend, “I have no peace of mind.”

Silence is golden!

Scattered Leaves

some the wind scatters on the ground;
so too the race of men.

– Iliad vi.146

Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher, paraphrasing the Illiad, vi146, in his Meditations, 10.34.

Maple Leaves at Tsūtenkyō
Maple Leaves at Tsūtenkyō, near Kyoto

Matsuo Basho on Scattered Leaves

Let the universe be your companion, bearing in mind the true nature of things—mountains and rivers, trees and grass, and humanity – and enjoy the falling blossoms and scattered leaves. Matsuo Basho

Humanity, Basho observed, enjoys the true nature of things. Autumn leaves, falling leaves of red and gold, scattered leaves outside my window, written about in song and poem, a last hurrah, a winsome remembrance, before winter’s wind comes along.

Such things as these cherished tears
scattered maple leaves

尊がる涙や 染めて 散る紅葉
tootogaru namida ya somete chiru momiji

Matsuo Basho on Autumn Leaves.

October 1, 1691, shortly before Basho, age 48, returned to Edo. Basho’s greeting to the priest Ryu at Menshooji temple 明照寺, (Meishōji), near Lake Biwa, in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture. WKD Matsuo Basho Archives

Menshooj Temple, original image Wikipedia

Moon over the Mountains

In the summer and fall of 1676, young Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa (he had not yet taken the pen-name Bashō) left Edo and returned to Iga to visit his family. The autumn moon rising over the mountains was a sight to behold.

Let us write poetry!
the moon over the mountains
is rarely seen in Edo

nagamuru ya Edo ni wa marena yama no tsuki


Hiroshige’s Moon over Mountain, 1835

Moon Viewing

Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa is 33, struggling to make a name for himself.

He has been living for four years in Edo’s fashionable and artsy Nihonbashi neighborhood. It is noisy, it is dirty, the lights obscure the moon. A autumn trip to his birthplace in Iga, Ueno provides an opportunity to see the harvest moon.

The last line, 山の月 yama no tsuki, moon over the mountain. This refers to the Japanese custom of holding parties to see a full moon, called moon viewing. The most popular viewing is the harvest moon in mid-autumn, celebrated as Tsukimi.

Notes on Translation

読む nagamuru, reading, reading out loud, reciting.

稀な marena, rare or uncommon. Viewing the full moon in the crowded, dirty city of Edo was not a beautiful sight. Especially so, as young Matsuo was living in the bustling district of Nihonbashi, a kind of New York Times Square with all sorts of distractions.

This post relies on WKD – Matsuo Basho Archives by Gabi Greve.