The accompanying 1830s woodcut print is the image of the great haiku poet Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), rendered by Hasegawa Settan (1778-1843). Depicting a legendary scene in which the poet was inspired to pen one of his masterpieces, Basho is seated at his writing desk in a humble cottage thatched with straw. A brushwood fence in the foreground on the right-hand side, moss-covered stepping stones in the garden, a pond overgrown with reeds, and stark surroundings suggested by thick horizontal lines in the background, all combine to conjure up the image of a hermit in seclusion from worldly concerns. Pausing in his work, the poet casts a glance at the pond and sees a frog leap into the water, creating ripples. This was the birth of his famous haiku: “Listen! a frog, Jumping into the stillness, Of an ancient pond!” (Translation by Dorothy Britton). The print is completed with the poem written at the top.
In 1680, Basho moved to Fukagawa on the east bank of the Sumida River to escape the din and bustle of Nihonbashi, near the center of the city, where he had lived for nine years. In those days, Fukagawa was a sparsely populated piece of reclaimed land beyond the boundary of Edo City.
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