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Basho and Sleeping Butterflies

May 14th, 2004 · 2 Comments

You never know what you’ll learn at the library… while wandering past some plants.


My favorite garden at the Bainbridge Island Library is the Japanese garden ( picture). Yesterday while walking through it on my way to pick up a book, I saw this sign carved into a rock, a haiku by Basho:
Wake up, wake up
sleeping butterfly –
let us be companions

I liked how the blooming iris placed near the rock provided a “butterfly”. I came home and did some research…

It seems that Basho, a poet, was named after the banana plant

Basho (bah-shoh), pseudonym of Matsuo Munefusa (1644-94), Japanese poet, considered the finest writer of Japanese haiku during the formative years of the genre.

The haiku written on rocks that decorate our island garden were inspired by ones in Japan

Scattered along the Nakasendo, at Shinchaya, Shimo-suwa, and Karuizawa, are rocks on which are inscribed poems. Composed by Basho, the poems evoke the local landscape at a particular time of year and are much appreciated by local residents who have erected the stone memorials to the poet.

This longer biography provided some description and speculation…
In describing the poet’s love life, whether or not he had a mistress:

At any rate, these accounts seem to point toward one fact: Basho still in his early twenties, experienced his share of the joys and griefs that most young men go through at one time or another.

Tags: books

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 wink // May 15, 2004 at 12:11 am

    A poet’s deep thoughts
    On metaphysics. Or just
    A butterfly’s dreams.

  • 2 Julie // May 15, 2004 at 1:50 pm

    Wink – Thanks for the haiku. Did you write this yourself?!