Sunday, July 24, 2005

Matsuo Basho's Travel Diary (1689): Narrow Road to the Deep North

SOURCE FOR THIS PICTURE: Stephen Kohl's website

A travel diary written in 1689, Matsuo Basho's "Narrow Road to the Deep North" is truly the story of a journey of self-discovery. It carries within itself that soft Oriental breeze of spirituality - that inner urge that human beings often experience, the need to be closer to Divinity - or to their own soul.

As author Theresa Williams notes, Basho's diary is written in the form of haibun, blending brief prose and haiku. Four translations are provided, by Britton, Corman, McCullough and Miner; primary translation is by Nobuyuki Yuasa, from "The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches".

A favorite passage, which inspired the picture above: "As I was plodding though the grass, I noticed a horse grazing by the roadside and a farmer cutting grass with a sickle. I asked him to do me the favor of lending me his horse. The farmer hesitated for a while, but finally with a touch of sympathy in his face, he said to me, 'There are hundreds of cross-roads in the grass-moor. A stranger like you can easily go astray. This horse knows the way. You can send him back when he won't go any further.' So I mounted the horse and started off, when two small children came running after me. One of them was a girl named kasane, which means manifold. I thought her name was somewhat strange but exceptionally beautiful.

If your name, Kasane,
Means manifold,
How befitting it is also
For a double-flowered pink.

By and by I came to a small village. I therefore sent back the horse, with a small amount of money tied to the saddle."

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