Warriors’ Dreams

A wilderness of summer grass
hides all that remains
of warriors’ dreams.
Matsuo Bashō

all that remains of warriors’ dreams

Setting out on foot in the spring of 1689 from Edo with his disciple Kawai Sora, Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉, 1644–1694) traveled some 1,500 miles, for 5 months in the north of Japan. Along the way he became ill and contemplated dying far from home. Recovering, Basho and his companion proceeded to Hiraizumi to view the spot where the legendary samurai Minamoto Yoshitsune of the Heian Period (794 to 1185) had fallen.

There Basho composed the above poem.

the stuff of dreams

This thought is echoed by William Shakespeare in The Tempest, through Prospero, Act IV, Scene One.

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.


a field of dried grass

Basho returned to Edo where he lived another 5 years. In the summer of 1694, he made one last trip before arriving in Osaka. There, he became sick with an illness in his stomach and died peacefully in bed, surrounded by his disciples. His last know poem follows:

falling sick on a journey
           my dream goes wandering
                          over a field of dried grass


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