Months, days, eternity’s sojourners. Years that unfold from the cherry in flower to rice thick in the flat fields to the gingko suddenly gold the first day of frost to the red fox across the snow. The sampan pilot from Shiogama to Ishinomaki, the postman galloping from Kyoto to Ogaki, what do they travel but time? Our great journey is through the years, even when we doze by the brazier. Clouds move on the winds. We long to travel with them. For I, Basho, am a traveller. No sooner, last autumn, did I get home from a fine journey along the coast, take the broom to the cobwebs in my neglected house on the Sumida River, see the New Year in, watch the wolves slinking down from the hills shoulder deep in white drifts, look in wonder all over again, as every spring, at the mist on the marshes, than I was ready to set out through the gate at Shirakawa. I stitched up the slits and rips in my trousers, hitched a new chin strap to my hat, rubbed my legs with burnt wormwood leaves, which puts vigour into the muscles, and thought all the while of the moon rising full over Matsushima, what a sight that would be when I got there and could gaze on it.
Fifty-Seven Views of Fujiyama
‘So Sora, to be worthy of the beauty of the world, shaved his head the day we departed, and donned a wandering priest’s black robe, and took yet a third name, Sogo, which means Enlightened, for the road.’
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