the summer moon

Above a town
Filled with the odors of things,
The summer moon.

,,Its hot!” ,,It’s hot!”
Murmurs are heard in the frontyards.

Though the second weeding
Is not yet over, rice plants
Shoot out their ears.

Ashes are brushed off a dried sardine
Just taken from the fire.

Those who live in this area
Have never seen a silver coin.
What a wretched place!

The fellow wears at his waist
An absurdly long sword.

From the cluster of grass
A frightening creature — a frog
In the evening dusk.

The lady hunting for butterburs
Jerks her lantern, and the fight is gone

She set her mind
On Nirvana, when cherry blossoms
Were still in bud.

At Nanao in Noto Province
It’s hard to live through a wintertime.

A man, infirm
With age, slowly sucks
A fish bone.

He lets a lover in,
Unlocking the small gate.

The maidservants
Trying to take a peep
Knocks down the screen!

On the bathroom floor,
A modest bamboo mat.

An evening storm
Blows at the fennel plants
And shakes down the seeds.

It’s becoming cold — is that a monk
Returning to the monastery?

A monkey showman
And his monkey, together for years —
The autumn moon.

Annually with a small amount of rice
He pays his share of taxes.

Five or six pieces
Of freshly cut timber
Over a muddy pool.

The socks are spotted
With the black dirt of the road.

Trying to catch up
With the hurried master’s horse.

An apprentice boy carrying a bucket
Stumbles and spills the water.

Doors and sliding screens
Are all covered with mats
At this mansion for sale.

The pepper pods have turned red
With the passage of time.

Noiselessly
A straw sandal is braided
In the moonlight.

Someone comes out and shakes off
The fleas into the early autumn night.

A dry measure, set up
To trap a mouse, falls to the ground
Without catching a thing.

The lid has been warped
And no longer fits on the chest.

At a hermitage
The man stays for a while
And then takes off again.

He is happy, living to an advanced age
And hearing about a new poetry anthology.

Various types of lovers
Who appeared in the past
Are recalled to mind.

In this fleeting world, no one can escape
The destiny of that famed poetess, Komachi.

Why is it
That her eyes are filled with tears
Over a bowl of porridge?

How spacious the wooden floor looks
When the master is away from home!

Under cherry blossoms
A man watches a louse crawling
On the palm of his hand.

Not a breeze to stir the thin haze.
The drowsiness of a spring day…

 

The Summer Moon is one of the finest renku
to spring from Bashō’s later literary activities.
It was written in the summer of 1690.
Two of his leading disciples, Kyorai and Bonchō, joined him in composing this renku of thirty-six verses.
In composing The Summer Moon the three poets took regular turns in contributing verses, although, as usual, Bashō was the team leader and must have given many words of advice to his teammates.

Translated by
Makoto Ueda

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