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Matsuo Basho


Matsuo Basho, originally Matsuo Chuemon Munefusa, was born in Ueno, Japan, in 1644 to a family of samurai descent. Basho was introduced to poetry at a young age by Todo Yoshitada, for whom he worked and shared a mutual love of renga. After Yoshitada’s death in 1666, Basho moved to the capital city of Edo (now Tokyo), where he studied poetry and gained recognition for his use of the haiku form. In 1684, Basho left Edo to travel alone, and documented his travels in The Narrow Road to the Deep North (1694), which helped establish the haibun as a major form, connecting haiku with narrative prose. He was the author of numerous other anthologies and volumes of poetry, including Monkey's Raincoat (1691) and The Seashell Game (1672). Basho died in Osaka on November 28, 1694.

By This Poet


[The cry of the cicada]

The cry of the cicada
Gives us no sign
That presently it will die.



                                              —Translation by William George Aston

[An ancient pond!]

An ancient pond!
With a sound from the water
Of the frog as it plunges in.



                                              —Translation by William George Aston

[‘Tis the first snow—]

’Tis the first snow—
Just enough to bend
The gladiolus leaves!




                                              —Translation by William George Aston