Along this way / no one goes, but I / autumn nightfall
Kono michi ya / yuku hito nashini / aki no kure
この道や 行く人なしに 秋のくれ
“Master, what is the Way?” a student might ask of the enlightened. It is a discussion Matsuo Basho’s disciples might have had with him in Edo where Basho fame was established for all of Japan.
In the fall of 1689, Matsuo Basho was finishing up his epic journey to the north which would become a well known book. Most of the journey, he was accompanied by a companion Kawai Sora, who kept his own journal. Towards the end of their journey, the two separated and Basho was for a while, alone.
A poet writes and rewrites his poem a thousand times. The writing process is a lonely one. A reader may read a poem a hundred times, finding something new each time the poem is read.
More is the pity, there are many places I have been to but once, and all alone.
Notes on translation
Aki no kure (秋のくれ) has several English meanings – autumn (秋), autumn twilight, autumn night fall, and depending upon context, autumn’s end. It is the subject of several Bashō haiku, suggesting many things including impending death. See Gabi Greve’s discussion in WKD – Matsuo Basho Archives.
Bashō composed the haiku during the fall of 1694, not long before his death.