No one travels

Matsuo Bashō

‘No one travels’ by Matsuo Basho is stripped of any superfluous language and transports readers into a realm of solitude. There, the poet stands alone against the backdrop of an autumn evening.


Matsuo Bashō

Nationality: Japanese

Matsuo Bashō was a 17th-century Japanese poet.

During the 20th century, his poetry spread around the world.

Key Poem Information

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Central Message: There is often peace in solitude

Themes: Beauty, Journey, Nature

Speaker: Likely Bashō

Emotions Evoked: Contentment, Enjoyment, Gratitude

Poetic Form: Haiku

Time Period: 17th Century

This poem is a great example of Bashō's verse, on that demonstrates his ability to imbue short poetic lines with a great deal of meaning.

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 Bashō

No one travelsAlong this way but I, This autumn evening.


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. 

Literary Devices 

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. 

Detailed Analysis 

Line One 

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.

Line Two 

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.

Line Three

This autumn evening.              

The third line provides a specific context for the poet’s journey, deepening the reader’s understanding of the scene. The mention of “autumn” introduces a symbolic layer to the poem. 

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.


What is the tone of ‘No one travels?’ 

The tone of this poem is contemplative and introspective. It conveys a sense of solitude, stillness, and perhaps a touch of melancholy.

What is the purpose of ‘No one travels?’

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.

What symbolism is in ‘No one travels?’

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.

What is the theme of ‘No one travels?’

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.

Similar Poetry 

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. 
  • The shallows – is a beautiful, traditional haiku about a crane landing in cool, shallow water and the ripples it makes. 
  • In the twilight rain – is a beautiful 3-line haiku that juxtaposes an evening rain with a bright hibiscus flower. 

Poetry+ Review Corner

No one travels

Enhance your understanding of the poem's key elements with our exclusive review and critical analysis. Join Poetry+ to unlock this valuable content.

Matsuo Bashō

Matsuo Bashō's poetry, rooted in the 17th century, reveals his profound connection with nature. His haiku poems capture the essence of the natural world, transporting readers on a journey through seasons and landscapes. With the brevity and elegance that readers have come to expect from his verse, Bashō's words inspire appreciation for the wonders of nature and evoke a sense of tranquility and introspection.
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17th Century

This poem exemplifies the aesthetics and values prevalent in 17th century Japanese poetry. This era witnessed a shift towards brevity, simplicity, and capturing the essence of a moment. Bashō's poetry, deeply influenced by Zen philosophy, embodied these qualities and made a profound impact on the evolution of haiku and Japanese poetic tradition.
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As a Japanese poet, Matsuo Bashō's work, including 'No one travels,' reflects the influence of Japanese poetic tradition. Japanese poems, including haiku, often embrace themes of nature, introspection, and the transitory nature of existence. They emphasize brevity and simplicity, capturing a single moment or emotion with delicate precision. Bashō's haiku, in particular, adheres to the essence of Japanese poems, evoking a sense of harmony with the natural world and inviting readers to connect with the profound simplicity and beauty found within the Japanese poetic tradition.
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Through his minimalist style, he unveils beauty in the simplest and most ordinary moments. The beauty in this poem lies in the solitude of the lone traveler, the stillness of the autumn evening, and the delicate balance between human existence and the natural world.
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In this poem, Bashō illuminates the individual's personal journey through life. The solitary traveler represents the inherent aloneness each person experiences on their unique path. This notion of journey extends beyond physical travel to encompass spiritual and emotional exploration.
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Nature occupies a central role in Bashō's haiku, including 'No one travels.' Drawing inspiration from the natural world, he explores the interconnectedness between humanity and the environment. Through subtle and nuanced descriptions, Bashō conveys the beauty, harmony, and transformative power of nature.
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The lone traveler's presence along the deserted path suggests a certain level of comfort and contentment with their own company. The tranquility of the autumn evening further adds to the feeling of serenity and harmony.
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The emotion of enjoyment is evoked through the poem's subtle invitation to embrace solitude and find contentment in the present moment. The solitude of the lone traveler and the stillness of the autumn evening allows for introspection and the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of one's surroundings.
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While the word "gratitude" may not be explicitly mentioned, the poem's depiction of the solitary traveler and the autumn evening prompts reflection on the temporary nature of life. The reader is reminded of the impermanence of beauty and how critical it is to enjoy every moment.
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Matsuo Bashō's depiction of the autumn evening creates a sense of reverence and admiration for the natural world. The imagery of the lone traveler in this serene setting encourages readers to appreciate the simplicity and tranquility of the moment.
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Autumn holds great significance in Bashō's haiku, symbolizing change, impermanence, and the cycle of life. In 'No one travels,' the mention of autumn evening sets a contemplative mood, underscoring the transitory nature of existence. Bashō captures the beauty of autumn's colors, the falling leaves, and the quietude of the season.
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Through this poem, the poet reflects on the significance of solitude and the opportunity it presents for self-discovery and personal growth. Rather than conveying a sense of despair, the speaker embraces moments of solitude as a means of connecting with oneself and finding solace in the quietude of the world.
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The poem captures the essence of a personal journey, both physical and metaphorical. The solitary traveler represents the individual's quest for self-discovery, growth, and enlightenment. It encompasses not only the act of physical movement but also the inward exploration of one's emotions, thoughts, and experiences.
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The poem's structure follows the traditional haiku format of three lines, with a juxtaposition of imagery and an element of seasonality. Through the haiku form, Bashō creates a condensed and impactful snapshot of the human experience.
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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.

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