Bashō's Road

to the small poem and the quiet voice within

basho | from the sound of water

Breakfast enjoyed
in the company of
morning glories

All along this road
not a single soul—only
autumn evening comes

This dark autumn
old age settles down on me
like heavy clouds or birds

[from THE SOUND OF WATER, Haiku by Basho, Buson, Issa, and Other Poets, translated by Sam Hamill, Shambhala, 2000]

7 Comments

  1. Yes, but old age can be good, too
    like the progression of snapshots in old albums
    relatives so distant
    yet relative.
    Basho I would have loved to drink with,
    and the birds.
    Gar

  2. Another winner in the Haiku days–I like the idea of age settling like heavy clouds, but the birds can stay away. Must be my victimization from Hitchcock.

  3. Fascinating always to compare translations. Jane Riechhold (Basho: The Complete Haiku, Kodansha, 2008) has it, “this autumn / why getting older is like / a bird into clouds.” Her footnote has the primary English translation as, “this autumn as-for / why old getting / cloud into bird.” If one doesn’t know the language, at least some of us surely know “old-getting”! And the mixture of our bird-ness and our cloud-ness we know intimately. Darkness and heaviness are optional.

  4. Does this mean you are home? I’d much rather hear about that than ” the dark autumn of old age” which I are, and past! “Heaven’s to Betsy,” lets all pull up our socks and sing a song to sunrise. Every single one of them! Love……

  5. Another version, also beautiful (aren’t they all?!): “This autumn, why do I get old? In clouds a bird” That has a sort of title or intro, which says “Sentiment on a journey.” It’s translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson, in From the Country of Eight Islands (U of Washington Press, 1981).

  6. Interesting responses of the different translations.
    Even with the words unchanged, makes me realize
    how we each interpret every poem with variations from
    what someone else might take from it, and to know that our own written words settle differently upon different people. The world is endlessly complex and amazing.

  7. I like the mood of this poem and drop comfortably in its lap. It touches my full head of hair when I started my journey and gently caresses my balding head now. I stare out the window of my life and relax as my engine slows down. Phil Hansotia.

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