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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 days 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 mountains 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 mothers voice was full of unselfish love as she gave her last injunction. Let not thine eyes be blinded, my son. She said. The mountain

road is full of dangers. LOOK carefully and follow the path which holds the piles of twigs. They will guide you to the familiar way farther down. The sons surprised eyes looked back over the path, then at the poor old, shriveled hands all scratched and soiled by their work of love. His heart smote him and bowing to the grounds, he cried aloud: oh, Honorable mother, thy kindness thrusts my heart! I will not leave thee. Together we will follow the path of twigs, and together we will die! Once more he shouldered his burden (how light it seemed no) and hastened down the path, through the shadows and the moonlight, to the little hut in the valley. Beneath the kitchen floor was a walled closet for food, which was covered and hidden from view. There the son his mother, supplying her with everything needful and continually watching and fearing. Time passed, and he was beginning to feel safe when again the governor sent forth heralds bearing an unreasonable order, seemingly as a boast of his power. His demand was that his subject should present him with a rope of ashes. The entire province trembled with dread. The order must be obeyed yet who in all Shinano could make a rope of ashes? One night, in great distress, the son whispered the news to his hidden mother. Wait! she said. I will think. I will think On the second day she told him what to do. Make rope twisted straw, she said. Then stretch it upon a row of flat stones and burn it there on the windless night. He called the people together and did as she said and when the blaze died, behold upon the stones with every twist and fiber showing perfectly. Lay a rope of whitehead ashes. The governor was pleased at the wit of the youth and praised greatly, but he demanded to know where he had obtained his wisdom. Alas! Alas! cried the farmer, the truth must be told! and with deep bows he related his story. The governor listened and then meditated in silence. Finally he lifted his head, Shinano needs more than strength of youth, he said gravely. Ah, that I should have forgotten the well-known saying, With the crown of snow, there cometh a wisdom! That very hour the cruel law was abolished, and custom drifted into as far a past that only legends remain

Matsuo Bash
1644 November 28, 1694), born Matsuo Kinsaku, then Matsuo Chemon Munafus, most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, after centuries of commentary, he is recognized as a master of brief and clear haiku. Early life Bash's supposed birthplace in Iga Province Bash was born in 1644, near Ueno, in Iga Province. His father may have been a low-ranking samurai, which would have promised Bash a career in the military, but not much chance of a notable life. It was traditionally claimed by biographers that he worked in the kitchens.However, as a child, Bash became a servant to Td Yoshitada , who shared with Bash a love for haikai no renga, a form of collaborative poetry composition. The sequences were opened with a verse in 5-7-5 mora format; this verse was named a hokku, and would later be renamed haiku when presented as a stand-alone work. The hokku would be followed by a related 7-7 mora verse by another poet. Both Bash and Yoshitada gave themselves haig, or haikai pen names; Bash's was Sb , which was simply the on'yomi reading of his adult name of Matsuo Munefusa. In 1662 the first extant poem by Bash was published; in 1664 two of his hokku were printed in a compilation, and in 1665 Bash and Yoshitada composed a onehundred-verse renku with some acquaintances. Yoshitada's sudden death in 1666 brought Bash's peaceful life as a servant to an end. No records of this time remain, but it is believed that Bash gave up the possibility of samurai status and left home. Rise to fame In the fashionable literary circles of Nihonbashi, Bash's poetry was quickly recognized for its simple and natural style. In 1674 he was inducted into the inner circle of the haikai profession, receiving secret teachings from Kitamura Kigin (16241705).He wrote this hokku in mock tribute to the Shogun: List of works Haiseiden (Poet's Memorial Hall) in Iga, Mie, which was built to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Bash's birth. Kai i (The Seashell Game) (1672) Minashiguri (A Shriveled Chestnut) (1683) Nozarashi Kik (Record of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton) (1684) Fuyu no Hi (Winter Days) (1684) Haru no Hi (Spring Days) (1686) Kashima Kik (A Visit to Kashima Shrine) (1687) Oi no Kobumi, or Utatsu Kik (Record of a Travel-Worn Satchel) (1688) Sarashina Kik (A Visit to Sarashina Village) (1688) Arano (Wasteland) (1689) Hisago (The Gourd) (1690) Sarumino (The Monkey's Raincoat) (1691) Saga Nikki (Saga Diary) (1691) Bash no Utsusu Kotoba (On Transplanting the Banana Tree) (1691)

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)

Matsuo Basho
1. Edo period or Tokugawa period is a division of Japanese history which was

ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate.
2. haikai no renga- is a poetic genre 3. Iga Province- was an old province of Japan in the area that is today western Mie

Prefecture. Iga bordered on Ise, mi, Yamato, and Yamashiro Provinces.


4. Ueno- is a district in Tokyo's Tait Ward, best known as the home of Ueno

Station and Ueno Park. Ueno is also home to some of Tokyo's finest cultural sites, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Western Art, and the National Science Museum, as well as a major public concert hall. Many Buddhist temples are in the area, including the Bentendo temple dedicated to goddess Benzaiten, on an island in Shinobazu Pond. Ueno is part of the historical Shitamachi (literally "low city") district of Japan, a working class area rather than where the aristocrats and rich merchants lived. 5. samurai- is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. By the end of the 12th century, samurai became almost entirely synonymous with bushi and the word was closely associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class. The samurai followed a set of rules that came to be known as Bushid. 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 Kend, meaning the way of the sword.
6. hokku- is the opening stanza of a Japanese orthodox collaborative linked

poem, renga, or of its later derivative, renku (haikai no renga). From the time of Matsuo Bash (16441694), the hokku began to appear as an independent poem, and was also incorporated in haibun (in combination with prose), and haiga (in combination with a painting). In the late 19th century, Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), renamed the stand-alone hokku to haiku, and the latter term is now generally applied retrospectively to all hokku appearing independently of renku or renga, irrespective of when they were written, although this approach has been challenged. The term 'hokku' continues to be used in its original sense, as the opening verse of a linked poem. 7. mora- a unit in phonology that determines syllable weight, which in some languages determines stress or timing.

8. haikai- is a poetic genre that includes a number of forms which embrace the

aesthetics of haikai no renga, and what Bash referred to as the "poetic spirit" (fga), including haiku, renku (haikai no renga), haibun, haiga and senry[1] (though not orthodox renga, tanka or waka). "Haikai" is sometimes used as an abbreviation for "haikai no renga".
9. on'yomi- are the logographic Chinese characters that are used in the

modern Japanese writing system 10. renku -the Japanese form of popular collaborative linked verse poetry formerly known as haikai no renga 11. Nihonbashi- Nihombashi, is a business district of Ch,Tokyo, 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. The first wooden bridge was completed in 1603, and the current bridge made of stone dates from 1911. 12. Shogun- (literally, "a commander of a force") was one of the (usually) hereditary military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867.[1] In this period, the shoguns, or their shikken regents (12031333), were the de facto rulers of Japan though they were nominally appointed by the emperor. 13. Iga, Mie- is a city located in Mie, Japan. It became a city on November 1, 2004 as a result of the merger of the old city of Ueno