Basho on poetry

zen enso

“What is important is to keep our mind high in the world of true understanding, and, returning to the world of our daily experience, to seek therein the truth of beauty. No matter what we may be doing at a given moment, we must not forget that it has a bearing upon our everlasting self which is poetry.”


The autumn full moon
All night long
I walked around the lake

japanese pine

“Go to the pine if you want to learn about the pine, or to the bamboo if you want to learn about the bamboo. And in doing so, you must leave your subjective preoccupation with yourself. Otherwise you impose yourself on the object and do not learn. Your poetry issues of its own accord when you and the object have become one – when you have plunged deep enough into the object to see something like a hidden glimmering there. However well-phrased your poetry may be, if your feeling is not natural – if the object and yourself are separate – then your poetry is not true poetry but merely your subjective counterfeit.”




Whoever tastes the flavour of our drink…

A well-known and oft-quoted Sufi classic by the 14th C Egyptian poet, Ibn bint Mayliq

Whoever tastes the flavour of the drink of the people knows it
and whoever becomes aware of it tomorrow [the Day of Resurrecton] will give his soul for it
Even if he risked his spirits, and sacrificed them
with every blink of the eye, it would still not equal it
A drop of it suffices all creation, had they but tasted,
they would declare themselves above all the worlds in drunken pride
The possessor of love, were he given the universe as a cup
to drink as many times as the number of souls, he still would not be quenched



من ذاقَ طعم شرابِ القوم يدريهِ          ومن دراه غداً بالروح يشريهِ
ولو تعرّضَ أرواحاً وجاد بها          في كل طرفةِ عين لا يُساويهِ
وقطرةٌ منه تكفي الخلقَ لو طعموا          فيشطَحونَ على الأكوان بالتيه
وذو الصبابة لو يسقى على عددِ الأن       فاسِ والكون كأساً ليس يرويهِ


The cicada: Camaron and Basho


A cicada shell;
it sang itself
utterly away.


In the cicada’s cry
There’s no sign that can foretell
How soon it must die.


sinking into the rocks,
cicadas’ cry
—Barnhill, Bashō’s Haiku, 94, #392





Don’t sing cicada
silence your chirping,
For I carry a pain in my soul,
A dagger that strikes me
knowing that when I sing
my luck expires sighing
Under the shade of a tree
and the beat of my guitar
This happy song,
because the road has ended
and do not want to die dreaming,
oh, like the cicada died.

Life, life, life is,
is a setback,
life is life.
Oh life is, life is …



Ya no cantes cigarra,
apaga tu sonsonete,
que llevo una pena en el alma,
que como un puñal se me mete
sabiendo que cuando canto
suspirando va mi suerte.

Bajo la sombra de un árbol
y al compás de mi guitarra
canto alegre este huapango,
porque la vía se acaba
y no quiero morir soñando,
ay, como muere la cigarra.

Ábreme la puerta
que vengo najando,
y los gachés, primita de mi alma,
sí a mí me ven
me la van buscando.

La vida, la vida, la vida es,
es un contratiempo,
la vida, la vida es.

Ay la vida es, la vida es…


Hidden Love, Apparent tears

An anonymous gem from Andalusia



Passion is hidden, while my tears reveal it
it is dying while my love revives it


My slender torturer
all beauties have been combined in her


As if, in her beauty, she were Joseph’s face
and as if, in my sadness, I were like his father


O, you who burns with fire the face of her love
wait, for my tears will drown it


My body is scorched by love, and all my limbs
Watch over my heart, for you are in it


If those in love with you deny my love
then I am love, and the son of love, and its brother




أخفي الهوى ومدامعي تبديه
وأميته وصبابتي تحييه

ومعذبي حلو الشمائل أهيف
قد جمعت كل المحاسن فيه

فكأنه بالحسن صورة يوسف
وكأنني بالحزن مثل أبيه

يا محرقا بالنار وجه محبه
مهلاً فإن مدامعي تطفيه

أحرق بها جسدي وكل جوارحي
واحرص على قلبي فإنك فيه

إن أنكر العشاق فيك صبابتي
فأنا الهوى وابن الهوى وأخيه