Bashō was born Matsuo Kinsaku around 1644, somewhere near Ueno in Iga Province. His father may have been a low-ranking samurai, which would have promised Bashō a career in the military but not much chance of a notable life. It was traditionally claimed by biographers that he worked in the kitchens. However, as a child Bashō became a servant to Tōdō Yoshitada, who shared with Bashō a love for haikai no renga, a form of cooperative poetry composition. The sequences were opened with a verse in the 5-7-5 mora format; this verse was named a hokku, and would later be renamed haiku when presented as stand-alone works. The hokku would be followed by a related 7-7 ... more »
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Matsuo Basho Poems
A snowy morning
A snowy morning-- by myself, chewing on dried salmon.
A bee staggers out of the peony.
Don't imitate me
Don't imitate me; it's as boring as the two halves of a melon.
The old pond
Following are several translations of the 'Old Pond' poem, which may be the most famous of all haiku:
A monk sips morning tea
A monk sips morning tea, it's quiet, the chrysanthemum's flowering.
Autumn moonlight-- a worm digs silently into the chestnut.
A caterpillar, this deep in fall-- still not a butterfly.
First day of spring
First day of spring-- I keep thinking about the end of autumn.
A cicada shell
A cicada shell; it sang itself utterly away.
An Old Pond
old pond..... a frog leaps in water's sound
Awake at night
Awake at night-- the sound of the water jar cracking in the cold.
Collection of Six Haiku
Waking in the night; the lamp is low, the oil freezing.
Spring: A hill without a name Veiled in morning mist.
A cool fall night
At a hermitage: A cool fall night-- getting dinner, we peeled
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Edgar Allan Poe
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A snowy morning
A snowy morning--
chewing on dried salmon.
Translated by Robert Hass