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    Matsuo Basho: Nature’s Meaning Essay

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    Matsuo Basho: Nature’s Meaning BY mah36532 Meredith Hood Mr. Morris English 2210-020 19 September 2013 Nature’s Meaning Poets often use nature as a source of inspiration in their works. Nature, itself, is a very graceful subject and can be used to express an array of human emotion and feeling. One famous poet that uses nature to portray his inner spirits is Matsuo Basho. This is evident in his work Oku no Hosomichi or The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

    His piece is a travelogue, which captures the pilgrimage through the northern part of Japan he and his travel companion, Sora, took to emulate the experiences and nderstandings of the places, cherished by poets before him. This masterpiece is much more than merely a travelogue of his Journeys though, but also a composition of haikus, conversation, and Journal entries that encapsulates the emotions and feelings he experiences. Basho is able to express and reflect these feelings from each new experience in his writings through use nature, as a symbolic image of his inner spirit.

    In the beginning of the novel Basho describes his decision to take the Journey “to the deep north,” and uses nature to convey his worries and thoughts about traying away from home- “l felt uncertain, wondering whether I would see again the cherry blossoms on the boughs at Ueno and Yanaka. ” Basho is using the cherry blossoms as a symbolic image to depict the disturbance he is feeling about leaving. In questioning that he may not see the cherry blossoms (a Japanese flower that only blossoms for a short period of time) again, he is referring to the way their splendor and beauty is only there for a time and is gone within only a short period.

    One can infer that Basho is suggesting that with the uncertainties, which lay ahead, he may ot return home for life’s beauty can be taken away in Just a moment, like the cherry blossoms. This sentiment can be portrayed in numerous other ways as well. The blossoms can also be used as a metaphor for his village in a sense that the brilliance and beauty he cherishes of life there now could possibly no longer exist upon his return, for everything is changing and moving with time, like nature’s beauty in the blossom.

    Overall, using both of these understandings of his use of nature, Basho is depicting his sadness in leaving a place he has known to love and treasure. (618) Basho then proceeds to exemplify his and his villiage’s emotions of his departure with the use of nature agian. He writes, “When I disembarked at a place called SenJu… standing at the crossroads of the illusory world, I wept at the parting. ” Basho then illustrates his thoughts of the leaving with a haiku: “Spring going-I birds crying and tears/ in the eyes of the fish. The symbolic image of nature allows the reader to convey multiple meanings of his emotions at the time. One, with the knowledge of lines prior, can arrive at the image of “birds crying and tears/ in the eyes of the fish” efers to Basho as the bird crying and his friends and family as the fish in these sorrow filled stanzas. The bird can be thought of as Basho as he is torn away crying from his home or nest to explore nature. Also “birds crying” can be inferred as the Dlra Is unaDle to nolo DacK In tears In nls eyes, nor can Basno In a sense nolo DacK but must flow from his roots into new beginnings.

    With that being said, the descriptions of nature in “tears in the eyes of the fish” can be thought of as Basho’s friends and the family mourning at his parting and must stay back, much like the ears of the fish. The fish then generates an example of how nature is representing the mournful village from which Basho is distraught. Additionally, in the first stanza, “spring going-,” is another depiction of nature giving numerous significances in Basho’s hidden emotions. Spring going-” suggests spring ending, a time of happiness and beauty also reflecting back to the cherry blossoms, and summer beginning, which is the time of the yearly migration of birds to the north, like Basho- the crying bird. There is no correct answer to what Basho was precisely meaning, but uch comparisons to nature displays his departure was filled with sorrowful emotion of both Basho and loved ones as he departs from home into the deep north. (618) Another instance when Basho uses nature to illustrate his inner emotions is when his pilgrimage truly begins.

    It can be speculated that Basho emotions of sorrow has transformed into insightfulness and inspiration when describing the images of nature surrounding him after they reach Mount Nikko, also referred to as Light of the Sun. This mountian holds one of the holiest shrines in Japan and is where other ravelers Journey to meditate. “Awe inspiring! ‘ on the green leaves, budding leaves/ light of the sun,” Basho writes about the mountain and its natural beauty. In the haiku Basho’s use of nature clearly depicts his inner change in spirit and displays a matured spirit.

    It can be inferred that Basho uses the image of “green leaves, budding leaves/ light of the sun,” to compare himself to a plant sprouting new life because of the “light of the sun,” or the mountain of Nikko. He associates the plant budding, as himself being renewed and inspired back to new life after the being on he mountain and not it has shed knowledge and growth on his inner spirit. (619) Additionally, another perception of nature informally exposing Matsuo Basho’s inner emotion and feelings of his experiences is when they reach the Sutra Hall and the Hall of Light.

    He states that they “had heard such wonderful things” about the beauty of the halls, but upon seeing them he believes otherwise. He sets a tone of the halls, being strained by its surroundings-“… the doors of Jewels, torn by the wind; the pillars of gold, rotted in the snow. ” In these lines the weather, or nature, is symbolizing his ourney and how it has exhausted and weakened him, as are the halls deteriorating in beauty and substance. Basho then proceeds to state that “the hall should have turned a mound of empty, abandoned grass, but the four sides were enclosed… urviving the snow and the rain. ” Basho shows his emotion of the feeling that he too is fading like the halls and that he should have not have made it thus far. In describing how the hall is weathered and should have died away he is also depicting his emotion of himself being alone and worn from the troubling and gruesome ourney, yet they still continue to exist. Basho also writes this haiku to illustrate his feelings further: “Have the summer rains/ come and gone, sparing/ the Hall of Light? ” which perhaps relates nature’s role on the hall and himself again, sparing both of them. (623) As seen through these samples of Matsuo Basho’s work The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Basho uses these many comparisons and images of nature to illustrate his moving experiences throughout his pilgrimage. Along with these lines Trom nls work tnere are many otner Instances tnrougnout Basnos travelogue In hich demonstrate these feelings he underwent in his travels.

    He was able to find some sort of inspiration from simple scenes of nature and use them to convey emotions and feelings in his poetry and writing as seen. Overall, nature is a perfect way for Basho to “paint a picture,” in a sense, of the emotions and feelings he has had- for nature presents an array of images to convey the thoughts he is having. Works Cited Basho, Matsuo. From The Narrow Road to the Deep North. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Gen. ed. Martin OPuchner. 3rd ed. Vol. D. New York: Norton, 2012. 616-628. print.

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