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Oku no Hosomichi

Oku no Hosomichi

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Oku no Hosomichi (Japanese: 奥の細道, meaning "Narrow road to/of the interior" but conventionally referred to as The Narrow Road to the Deep North) is a major work by Matsuo Bashō.

The First, and most famous quote from Oku no Hosomichi

月日は百代の過客*にして、行かふ年も又旅人也。 舟の上に生涯をうかべ*馬の口とらえて老をむかふる物*は、 日々旅にして、旅を栖とす。古人*も多く旅に死せるあり。 予もいづれの年よりか、片雲の風にさそはれて、漂泊の思ひやまず、 海浜にさすらへ*、去年の秋江上の破屋*に蜘の古巣をはらひて、 やゝ年も暮、春立る霞の空に、白川の関こえんと、 そヾろ神*の物につきて心をくるはせ、 道祖神のまねきにあひて取もの手につかず、 もゝ引の破をつヾり、笠の緒付かえて、 三里*に灸すゆるより、松島の月先心にかゝりて*、 住る方は人に譲り、杉風が別墅*に移るに、   草の戸も住替る代ぞひなの家 面八句*を庵の柱に懸置*。

Oku no Hosomichi was written based on a journey taken by Bashō in the late spring of 1689. He and his traveling companion Sora departed from Edo (modern-day Tokyo) for the northerly interior region known as Oku, propelled mostly by a desire to see the places about which the old poets wrote. Travel in those days was, of course, very dangerous to one's health, but Bashō was committed to a kind of poetic ideal of wandering. He travelled for about 156 days all together, covering thousands of miles mostly on foot. Of all of Bashō's works, this is the best known. The text is a mixture of prose and verse, with many references to Confucius, Saigyō, ancient Chinese poetry, and even the Tale of the Heike. It manages to strike a delicate balance between all the elements to produce a powerful account. It is primarily a travel account, and Bashō vividly relates the unique poetic essence of each stop in his travels. Stops on his journey include the Tokugawa shrine at Nikkō, the Shirakawa barrier, the islands of Matsushima, Sakata, Kisakata, and Etchū. He and Sora parted at Yamanaka, but at Ōgaki he met up a with few of his other disciples for a brief time before departing again to the Ise Shrine and closing the account. After his journey, he spent five years working and reworking the poems and prose of Oku no Hosomichi before publishing it. Based on differences between draft versions of the account, Sora's diary, and the final version, it is clear that some events were fabricated or reordered to make a better story, but the essential poetic truth remains.

English translations

  • Britton, Dorothy, trans. Haiku Journey: Basho's Narrow Road to a Far Province. Kodansha, 1974.
  • Corman, Cid, and Kamaike Susume, trans. Back Roads to Far Towns. Grossman, 1968.
  • Hamill, Sam, trans. The Narrow Road to the Interior.
  • Keene, Donald, trans. The Narrow Road to Oku.
  • McCullough, Helen Craig, trans. The Narrow Road to the Interior.
  • Miner, Earl, trans. In Japanese Poetic Diaries. University of California Press, 1976.
  • Yuasa, Nobuyuki, trans. The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches.

External links

ja:奥の細道 de: Oku no Hosomichi

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