Matsuo Bashō Poems

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) was a renowned Japanese poet during the Edo period, known for his haiku poetry and travel writing. He developed the haiku into a sophisticated form of poetry, using simple language and imagery to evoke profound emotions and insights into nature and life.

Basho’s poetry often focused on the transience and impermanence of existence, and he believed that a true haiku should capture a moment of natural beauty or spiritual awakening.

His most famous work is the Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Deep North), a travelogue that describes his journey through northern Japan and reflects his Zen-influenced philosophy. Basho’s influence on Japanese literature and culture has been significant, and his haiku continue to inspire poets and readers around the world.

The Old Pond

by Matsuo Bashō

‘The Old Pond’ is one of the best-known Japanese haiku of all time. This haiku consists of three phrases that contain the syllable count of 5-7-5.

Matsuo Bashō is considered one of the most important poets of the Edo period in Japan, and his contributions to haiku poetry have earned him a place among the greatest literary figures in Japanese history. His poetry often focused on the beauty of the natural world, and he sought to capture the essence of life and the changing seasons in just a few words. 'The Old Pond' is one of Bashō's most famous poems, and it is a wonderful example of his ability to use simple language to convey complex emotions.

Old pond...

a frog jumps in

water's sound

Autumn moonlight

by Matsuo Bashō

‘Autumn moonlight’ by Matsuo Bashō is a traditional haiku that’s beautiful written about the seasons. This translation was done by Robert Hass.

Matsuo Basho was a Japanese poet who is widely regarded as one of the greatest masters of the haiku form. His works, including 'Autumn moonlight,' capture the beauty and simplicity of nature. While 'Autumn moonlight' is not his best-known poem, it is a wonderful example of his verse and certainly one of the best haiku in Japanese history. This poem, like many of Bashō's other poems, continues to influence generations of poets and writers, both in Japan and around the world.

Autumn moonlight--

a worm digs silently

into the chestnut.

In Kyoto

by Matsuo Bashō

‘In Kyoto’ by Matsuo Bashō expresses a deep sense of longing and nostalgia for the city of Kyoto through a 3-line haiku.

Matsuo Basho is one of the most celebrated poets of Japanese literature, known for his haiku poems that capture the essence of nature and human experience in a simple yet profound way. 'In Kyoto' is a perfect example of his ability to use sensory detail and literary devices to evoke complex emotions and ideas in just a few words.

In Kyoto,

hearing the cuckoo,

I long for Kyoto.

The shallows

by Matsuo Bashō

‘The shallows’ by Matsuo Bashō  is a beautiful, traditional haiku about a crane landing in cool, shallow water and the ripples it makes. 

This poem is considered to be a very good example of Matsuo Bashō's poetry. Bashō is especially renowned for his haiku poetry, which is celebrated for its simplicity, elegance, and profound insights into the natural world. 'The shallows' is a perfect example of his mastery of haiku, as it captures a moment in nature with striking imagery and a sense of quiet beauty.

The shallows –

a crane’s thighs splashed

in cool waves

In the twilight rain

by Matsuo Bashō

‘In the twilight rain’ by Matsuo Bashō is a beautiful 3-line haiku that juxtaposes an evening rain with a bright hibiscus flower. 

Bashō's poems, like this one, often use vivid imagery and symbolic language to create a powerful and evocative portrayal of nature and the human experience. His ability to capture the beauty and meaning in seemingly mundane moments has made his work enduringly popular. This poem may not be his best-known but should be regarded as one of his most beautiful haiku.

In the twilight rain

these brilliant-hued hibiscus . . .

A lovely sunset

No one travels

by 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'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.

No one travels

Along this way but I, 

This autumn evening. 

From time to time

by Matsuo Bashō

‘From time to time’ by Matsuo Bashō is a beautiful haiku that describes clouds parting to reveal the light of the moon, symbolically representing hope and change. 

This Bashō poem demonstrates the poet's mastery of the haiku form by capturing the natural world in a way that exemplifies his appreciation of it. 'From time to time' is highly recognised as one that the poet would have written, utilizing short phrases and direct, impactful language in order to depict nature in a way that is very memorable.

From time to time

The clouds give rest 

To the moon beholders...

First winter rain

by Matsuo Bashō

‘First winter rain’ by Matsuo Basho speaks about the related experiences between humans and animals in the form of a haiku poem.

This poem is often regarded as a representative example of the poet's haiku style and themes. While each of Basho's haiku poems is unique in its own right, there are certain elements and themes that can be found across his works, including 'First Winter Rain.' One common characteristic of Basho's haiku, seen in this poem, is his focus on nature and its interconnectedness with human emotions and experiences.

First winter rain—

even the monkey

seems to want a raincoat.

The cry of the cicada

by Matsuo Bashō

‘The cry of the cicada’ by Matsuo Bashō is a thoughtful poem that evokes images of summer and reminds readers about the inevitability of death.

This poem is a great example of Bashō's verse. It is a good testament to his poetic skill, filled with succinct and thought-provoking verses. The poem is capable of capturing the essence of human experience. It demonstrates his ability to distill profound emotions and observations into concise lines. This poem may not be his best-known, but it should be regarded among his best.

The cry of the cicada

Gives us no sign

That presently they will die. 

A jag of lightning

by Matsuo Bashō

‘A jag of lightning’ by Matsuo Bashō is a beautiful and interesting poem that describes lightning and a heron’s scream. 

Matsuo Bashō, one of the most revered figures in Japanese literature, showcases his mastery of haiku poetry in 'A Jag of Lightning.' His works are celebrated for their brevity, simplicity, and ability to capture profound moments in nature. Through his unique style, Bashō should inspire readers to appreciate the beauty and depth in seemingly ordinary experiences.

A jag of lightning--

Then, flitting toward the darkness,

A night heron's scream.

Explore more poems from Matsuo Bashō

A caterpillar

by Matsuo Bashō

‘A caterpillar’ by Matsuo Bashō is a concise that captures the image of a caterpillar through simple yet interesting imagery. The poem revolves around a caterpillar, a creature in the process of metamorphosis.

Bashō's haiku, including this particular poem, demonstrated his ability to distill complex emotions and observations into concise and evocative verses, leaving a lasting impact on the world of poetry. This poem is a good, although not famous, example of his verse.

A caterpillar

this deep in fall

still not a butterfly.

Waves of summer grass

by Matsuo Bashō

‘Waves of summer grass’ by Matsuo Bashō is a beautiful and sorrowful haiku poem about loss and death symbolized in nature.

Matsuo Bashō's poetry showcases profound simplicity and captures the essence of human experiences. His haiku poems, including 'Waves of summer grass,' exemplify his mastery of concise expression and his ability to evoke emotions with minimal words. This poem should be regarded as a great example of his verse but far from his best.

Waves of summer grass:

All that remains of soldiers’

Impossible dreams.