THE STORY OF THE AGED MOTHER
A Japanese Folktale
Long, long ago there lived at the foot of the mountain a poor farmer and his aged, widowed mother. They owned a bit of land which supplied them with food, and their humble were peaceful and happy. Shinano was governed by a despotic leader who though a warrior, had a great and cowardly shrinking from anything suggestive of failing health and strength. This caused him to send out a cruel proclamation. The entire province was given strict orders to immediately put to death all aged people. Those were barbarous days, and the custom of abandoning old people to die was not common. The poor farmer loved his aged mother with tender reverence, and the order filled his heart with sorrow. But no one ever thought a second time about obeying the mandate of the governor, so with many deep hopeless sighs, the youth prepared for what at that time was considered the kindest mode of death. Just at sundown, when his day’s work was ended, he took a quantity of unwhitened rice which is principal food for poor, cooked and dried it, and tying it in a square cloth, swung and bundle around his neck along with a gourd filled with cool, sweet water. Then he lifted his helpless old mother to his back and stated on his painful journey up the mountain. The road was long and steep; the narrowed road was crossed and reclosed by many paths made by the hunters and woodcutters. In some place, they mingled in a confused puzzled, but he gave no heed. One path or another, it mattered not. On he went, climbing blindly upward towards the high bare summit of what is know as Obatsuyama, the mountain of the “abandoning of aged”. The eyes of the old mother were not so dim but that they noted the reckless hastening from one path to another, and her loving heart grew anxious. Her son did not know the mountain’s many paths and his return might be one of danger, so she stretched forth her hand and snapping the twigs from brushes as they passed, she quietly dropped a handful every few steps of the way so that they climbed, the narrow path behind them was dotted at frequently intervals with tiny piles of twigs. At last the summit was reached. Weary and heart sick, the youth gently released his burden and silently prepared a place of comfort as his last duty to the loved one. Gathering fallen pine needle, he made a soft cushion and tenderly lifting his old mother therein, he wrapped her padded coat more closely about the stooping shoulders and with tearful eyes and an aching heart said farewell. The trembling mother’s voice was full of unselfish love as she gave her last injunction. “Let not thine eyes be blinded, my son.” She said. “The mountain
“Make rope twisted straw. Beneath the kitchen floor was a walled closet for food. which was covered and hidden from view.” He called the people together and did as she said and when the blaze died. The governor listened and then meditated in silence. Lay a rope of whitehead ashes. thy kindness thrusts my heart! I will not leave thee. “I will think. “Ah. then at the poor old. Time passed. The governor was pleased at the wit of the youth and praised greatly. there cometh a wisdom!” That very hour the cruel law was abolished. LOOK carefully and follow the path which holds the piles of twigs. supplying her with everything needful and continually watching and fearing. seemingly as a boast of his power.” she said. They will guide you to the familiar way farther down”. Honorable mother. “Then stretch it upon a row of flat stones and burn it there on the windless night. The entire province trembled with dread. “With the crown of snow. through the shadows and the moonlight. “Shinano needs more than strength of youth.road is full of dangers. that I should have forgotten the well-known saying. to the little hut in the valley. behold upon the stones with every twist and fiber showing perfectly. “Alas! Alas!” cried the farmer. The order must be obeyed yet who in all Shinano could make a rope of ashes? One night. “Wait!” she said. His heart smote him and bowing to the grounds. There the son his mother. The son’s surprised eyes looked back over the path. “the truth must be told!” and with deep bows he related his story. and he was beginning to feel safe when again the governor sent forth heralds bearing an unreasonable order. in great distress. shriveled hands all scratched and soiled by their work of love. the son whispered the news to his hidden mother. and together we will die!” Once more he shouldered his burden (how light it seemed no) and hastened down the path.” he said gravely. Together we will follow the path of twigs. His demand was that his subject should present him with a rope of ashes. I will think” On the second day she told him what to do. but he demanded to know where he had obtained his wisdom. and custom drifted into as far a past that only legends remain
. Finally he lifted his head. he cried aloud: “oh.
near Ueno. and would later be renamed haiku when presented as a stand-alone work. In 1662 the first extant poem by Bashō was published. Mie. Both Bashō and Yoshitada gave themselves haigō. The sequences were opened with a verse in 5-7-5 mora format. No records of this time remain. which would have promised Bashō a career in the military. recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form.He wrote this hokku in mock tribute to the Shogun: List of works Haiseiden (Poet's Memorial Hall) in Iga. 1694). who shared with Bashō a love for haikai no renga. Bashō's was Sōbō . Bashō's poetry was quickly recognized for its simple and natural style. Kai Ōi (The Seashell Game) (1672) Minashiguri (A Shriveled Chestnut) (1683) Nozarashi Kikō (Record of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton) (1684) Fuyu no Hi (Winter Days) (1684) Haru no Hi (Spring Days) (1686) Kashima Kikō (A Visit to Kashima Shrine) (1687) Oi no Kobumi. which was built to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Bashō's birth. today. and in 1665 Bashō and Yoshitada composed a onehundred-verse renku with some acquaintances. In 1674 he was inducted into the inner circle of the haikai profession. in Iga Province. in 1664 two of his hokku were printed in a compilation. after centuries of commentary. born Matsuo Kinsaku. Yoshitada's sudden death in 1666 brought Bashō's peaceful life as a servant to an end. this verse was named a hokku. or Utatsu Kikō (Record of a Travel-Worn Satchel) (1688) Sarashina Kikō (A Visit to Sarashina Village) (1688) Arano (Wasteland) (1689) Hisago (The Gourd) (1690) Sarumino (The Monkey's Raincoat) (1691) Saga Nikki (Saga Diary) (1691) Bashō no Utsusu Kotoba (On Transplanting the Banana Tree) (1691)
. as a child. a form of collaborative poetry composition.Matsuo Bashō
1644 – November 28.However. which was simply the on'yomi reading of his adult name of Matsuo Munefusa. but not much chance of a notable life. but it is believed that Bashō gave up the possibility of samurai status and left home. Bashō became a servant to Tōdō Yoshitada . then Matsuo Chūemon Munafus. The hokku would be followed by a related 7-7 mora verse by another poet. most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. Early life Bashō's supposed birthplace in Iga Province Bashō was born in 1644. His father may have been a low-ranking samurai. he is recognized as a master of brief and clear haiku. or haikai pen names. receiving secret teachings from Kitamura Kigin (1624–1705). It was traditionally claimed by biographers that he worked in the kitchens. Rise to fame In the fashionable literary circles of Nihonbashi.
Heikan no Setsu (On Seclusion) (1692) Sumidawara (A Sack of Charcoal) (1694) Betsuzashiki (The Detached Room) (1694) Oku no Hosomichi (Narrow Road to the Interior) (1694) Zoku Sarumino (The Monkey's Raincoat. Continued) (1698)
4. as the opening verse of a linked poem. and haiga (in combination with a painting).
6. The term 'hokku' continues to be used in its original sense. including the Tokyo National Museum. While they numbered less than 10% of Japan's population samurai teachings can still be found today in both everyday life and in martial arts such as Kendō.Matsuo Basho
1. The samurai followed a set of rules that came to be known as Bushidō. samurai became almost entirely synonymous with bushi and the word was closely associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class. the National Museum of Western Art. renga. running from 1603 to 1868.is the opening stanza of a Japanese orthodox collaborative linked
poem.is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. renku (haikai no renga). hokku. although this approach has been challenged. In the late 19th century. and was also incorporated in haibun (in combination with prose). The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate. or of its later derivative. 7. Ōmi. on an island in Shinobazu Pond. renamed the stand-alone hokku to haiku. meaning the way of the sword. By the end of the 12th century. irrespective of when they were written. Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902).a unit in phonology that determines syllable weight. Edo period – or Tokugawa period is a division of Japanese history which was
ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. which in some languages determines stress or timing. best known as the home of Ueno
Station and Ueno Park. Iga bordered on Ise. a working class area rather than where the aristocrats and rich merchants lived. the hokku began to appear as an independent poem. including the Bentendo temple dedicated to goddess Benzaiten. and the latter term is now generally applied retrospectively to all hokku appearing independently of renku or renga. From the time of Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694). as well as a major public concert hall. 5. and Yamashiro Provinces.is a poetic genre 3. Ueno. haikai no renga.is a district in Tokyo's Taitō Ward. Iga Province. Ueno is part of the historical Shitamachi (literally "low city") district of Japan.
. mora. Yamato. samurai. and the National Science Museum.
2.was an old province of Japan in the area that is today western Mie
Prefecture. Ueno is also home to some of Tokyo's finest cultural sites. Many Buddhist temples are in the area.
and what Bashō referred to as the "poetic spirit" (fūga). tanka or waka). and the current bridge made of stone dates from 1911.are the logographic Chinese characters that are used in the
modern Japanese writing system 10. haibun. It became a city on November 1.is a poetic genre that includes a number of forms which embrace the
aesthetics of haikai no renga. Mie.Tokyo. Nihonbashi. the shoguns. renku (haikai no renga). or their shikken regents (1203–1333). 13.
9. Japan.(literally. "a commander of a force") was one of the (usually) hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867. renku -the Japanese form of popular collaborative linked verse poetry formerly known as haikai no renga 11. haiga and senryū (though not orthodox renga. is a business district of Chūō. on'yomi.Nihombashi. Iga.8. 2004 as a result of the merger of the old city of Ueno
. 12. were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor.is a city located in Mie. including haiku. Shogun. The first wooden bridge was completed in 1603. haikai. Japan which grew up around the bridge of the same name which has linked two sides of the Nihonbashi River at this site since the 17th century. "Haikai" is sometimes used as an abbreviation for "haikai no renga". In this period.