Sick on my journey
my dreams will wander
this desolate field
旅に病んで 夢は枯野を かけ廻る
Tabi ni yande/ Yume wa kareno wo/ Kakemeguru
The Death of Matsuo Bashō
It came to an abrupt end in 1694.
Bashō, at the age of 50, was making a journey home. He left Edo (Tokyo) for the last time in the summer of that year, spending time in Ueno, where he was born, and Kyoto, where he studied as a young man, before arriving in Osaka, which he had often visited and no doubt had many friends and disciples. There his familiar stomach illness came on again. Bashō apparently had time to put his affairs in order, composing this final haiku.
It is said that Basho delivered this haiku on his deathbed to 60 of his disciples who had gathered to say a final goodbye. Four days later, he died.
Then, pursuant to his last wishes, he was buried at the temple dedicated to Minamoto no Yoshinaka in Gichū-ji. Yoshinka, a general of the Minamoto clan. Yoshinka was killed by his cousins at the Battle of Awazu in Ōmi Province in 1184. According to a play in the Theater of Nō, his spirit wanders about.
Notes on translation
Tabi ni yande 旅に病んで, sick on my journey; tabi 旅, meaning trip, travel, or journey
Yume wa kareno wo 夢は枯野を, “like dreams on a withered field”. A second interpretation – the dream withers or dies on this field. Basho juxtaposes differing interpretations of death. In one scenario. life is extinguished and the dream dies. In the second, as in the Theater of Nō, the spirit of the deceased wanders about.
Basho had the second idea in mind as he had discussed with his friends his wish to be buried near Yoshinaka, who was killed in battle, and was himself the subject of a play in the Theater of Nō where his spirit wandered about.
Kakemeguru かけ廻る, to run or rush about.