Among the great haiku masters, Matsuo Bashō remains an iconic figure whose works continue to resonate centuries after their creation. This is not one of his better-known poems, but it is a good example of the emotions that his poetry is capable of evoking.
No one travels Matsuo BashōNo one travelsAlong this way but I, This autumn evening.
Explore No one travels
‘No one travels’ by Matsuo Basho reflects on life and loneliness through the beautiful image of someone walking by themselves.
The first line suggests a deserted path or a road seldom taken by others. The following line, “Along this way but I,” reveals that Bashō is the only traveler present at that moment. This realization emphasizes his sense of isolation and uniqueness.
The mention of “this autumn evening” further sets the atmosphere. It suggests that the year is coming to an end. Readers may also interpret the choice of the autumn season as an allusion to the end of life or important changes.
Structure and Form
‘No one travels’ by Matsuo Basho follows a traditional Japanese form of poetry known as haiku. Haiku is a concise and contemplative form consisting of three lines with a specific syllable pattern: 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line, and 5 syllables in the third line. But, readers should know that this poem was originally written in Japanese, so some of this formatting has been lost in the translation.
In this poem, the poet makes use of a few different literary devices. For example:
- Imagery: The poem employs vivid and sensory language to create mental images, such as the deserted path, the autumn evening, and the solitary traveler.
- Symbolism: The poem employs symbolism to convey deeper meanings. The autumn evening symbolizes the passage of time, change, and the impermanence of life.
- Enjambment: can be seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two.
No one travels
The first line of the poem establishes a sense of emptiness or absence, suggesting that there are no other individuals traversing the path or embarking on a journey. It’s likely the poet was thinking about himself and all the independent travel he did throughout his life when writing this piece.
Plus, this line can be interpreted in multiple ways. On one hand, it may imply a literal interpretation, indicating that Bashō is alone on the road. This highlights his isolation and perhaps a feeling of being disconnected from others. It evokes a sense of solitude, emphasizing the unique and personal nature of his experience.
On the other hand, the line can be viewed more metaphorically, representing the broader human condition. It suggests that in the grand scheme of life’s journey, each individual is ultimately alone.
Along this way but I,
The second line of the poem builds upon the theme of solitude and reinforces the idea of individuality. It emphasizes the poet’s unique presence as the sole traveler along the path being described.
The phrase “but I” contrasts the absence of others mentioned in the previous line with the poet’s presence. It highlights the speaker’s isolation, underscoring the notion that they are the only ones traversing this particular path at this moment.
The use of the word “I” also emphasizes the personal and subjective nature of the journey. It suggests that the poet is undertaking this voyage alone, possibly seeking personal growth, self-discovery, or a deeper understanding of the world.
By stating that only the poet travels along this way, the line emphasizes the individuality and singularity of the speaker’s experience. It invites reflection on the notion that each person’s journey through life is distinct, shaped by their own choices, circumstances, and perspectives.
This autumn evening.
Autumn is often associated with change, transition, and the passage of time. It represents a season of natural decay as leaves fall from trees and nature prepares for winter. This imagery can evoke feelings of transience, impermanence, and reflection on the passing of time.
The choice of “evening” further contributes to the atmosphere. The evening is typically associated with a quieter and more introspective time of day. It suggests a moment of stillness and reflection, providing an appropriate backdrop for the poet’s contemplative state of mind.
The tone of this poem is contemplative and introspective. It conveys a sense of solitude, stillness, and perhaps a touch of melancholy.
The purpose of this poem is to explore the human condition and the personal journey of life. It prompts contemplation on the uniqueness of each individual’s experience.
The symbolism lies in the imagery of the lone traveler, the autumn evening, and the deserted path. The lone traveler represents the individual on their unique journey, while the deserted path suggests a departure from the norm and highlights the isolation of the poet’s experience.
The theme of this poem revolves around solitude, individuality, and life. It explores the idea that each person’s journey is ultimately personal and unique, even though they may intersect with the paths of others at times.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Matsuo Bashō poems. For example:
- ‘In Kyoto’ – expresses the poet’s longing to find peace in the city of Kyoto.
- ‘The Old Pond’ – this is an incredibly famous haiku that describes a frog jumping into a pond.