All that remains | Matsumura Goshun

Summer grass – 
All that remains
of a warriors’ dream.

Many years later in 1757 a memorial stone – into which these words were carved – was erected by Taikabo Yariyo. He was a Zen priest from Daikoji temple in Shiba, one hundred miles south of Hiraizumi and besides form that Yariyo was Basho’s nephew. The monument was placed on the grounds of Motsuji temple, a once splendid temple compound which has been abandoned for centuries and was in the slow process of re-awakening then in the 18th century. 

One hundred-fifty years of rain washed the inscription away. So Socho, a monk and haiku enthusiast together with a handful of local artists went through the efforts of setting a second memorial stone – with the same poem – next to the first one. 

Another one hundred-fifty years later an additional Basho memorial stone was placed on the temple’s precincts. This time in 1967 the poem was in English. 

Maybe that it was raining too, when Umezaki Shujaku (1896-1969) a painter “of considerable talent” from Tokyo visited these Monuments – maybe not, we don’t know for sure. But we do know that he had a piece of paper with him when he came to this remote, quiet, and inspiring place. A poem he had for a long time and finally, had it mounted on a scroll. It was Basho’s “summer grass” poem written by Gekkei, Matsumura Goshun. 

Summer grass – 
All that remains
of warriors’ dream.
Haseo’s poem by Gekkei. 

On leaving the temple grounds Shujaku made a donation. The priest would have expected Shujaku’s “book of red seals” (Jap. Goshuincho) but instead the priest had to stamp the scroll Shujaku presented. 

Back home Shujaku solemnly brushed on the box lid: Poem by Basho, calligraphy by Gekkei. And on the inside of the box a little less solemnly he added a set of three poems: A poem by Yosa Buson: “Rape flowers. The moon in the east. The sun in the west.” And then this sentence from the Blue Cliff Record: “Calm your thoughts, and fire itself will be cool and refreshing.” And last this poem by Morikawa Kyoroku (1656-1715), one of Basho’s “Ten Disciples”: “When you see the Stone-Buddha prepare Sushi. 1715, 8th month, 20th day, Kyoroku” (Morikawa Kyoroku).
The collector’s label on the box is sealed “Stone Buddha” – a sobriquet of Umezaki Shujaku (1896-1969). 

Matsumura Goshun (1752-1811)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s