Such things as cherished tears
the scattered red leaves
尊がる涙や 染めて 散る紅葉
tootogaru namida ya somete chiru momiji
The Autumn Years
It is near the beginning of the end.
Beginning in 1690, Bashō was gone from Edo, living in quiet retirement at the Genju-an (the Phantom Dwelling), what had been an abandoned hut with a rush door, near Lake Biwa. He spent his days working on the book that would make him famous, Narrow Road to the Deep North and making short trips to visit friends and former students. On the first day of October he called on the Priest Ryu, at the Myosho-ji Temple in Hikone, Shiga Prefecture.
This visit inspired the above haiku.
After calling on his friend, Bashō returned to Edo to a new house near the old one in Fukagawa, complete with five banana plants. For the next three years, he would work on another anthology of poetry before setting out once more in the spring of 1694 for his birthplace.
On the way, at Osaka, he took ill and died, age 50.
Notes on translation
Momijigari, 紅葉狩り – Maple viewing, a Japanese autumn tradition of visiting where the maple leaves have turned red. From momiji (紅葉) meaning the “maple tree” as well as “red leaves” and “color changing”; and kari (狩り) “hunting”.