Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Basho Poetics: Constancy and Transformation

In the master's view of the *fûga *(poetic spirit), there are two principles: constancy through ten thousand generations, and transformation of the moment. Everything is contained in these two principles, and the two are rooted in one thing. That one thing is the *makoto* (genuineness) of * fûga*.

If one does not understand constancy, one can truly understand nothing of * fûga*. Constancy is unrelated to whether something is new or old; it is not concerned with transformation or the flow of change. It is based firmly on * makoto*. When we consider the verse of the generations of poets, we find generations of change. Yet whether the poems are new or old, what moves us today has not altered from what was moving in the past; many are the poems with *aware *(deep feeling). This we should understand as constancy.

On the other hand, it is the law of nature that life undergoes a thousand transitions and ten thousand changes. Were there no transformation, aesthetic style could never be made new. That style does not change is because it remains confined to the currents of one time only, and there is no pursuit of *makoto*. One who does not concentrate his mind on this pursuit does not realize the transformation inherent in *makoto*. He merely follows after others. One who does pursue *makoto* simply cannot stop at one place; he advances naturally to the next step. As time moves on, the art of haikai will go through its own thousand transitions and ten thousand changes, but all transformations based on * makoto* will be part of the master's art.

trans David Barnhill

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