“Stillness” by Matsuo Bashō

The following haiku is from Bashō’s famous haibun (blended prose-verse travelogue) Narrow Road to the Deep North, which describes his 1689 journey into the less populated wilderness of northern Japan in search of famous utamakaru or sites that inspired great poetry. At one point he visits a mountain temple high upon a peak where boulders are piled upon boulders and coated with moss. Exploring the area, he is struck by the utter silence. After praying in the temple, he writes these lines:

Ah, such vast stillness!
Even the cicada’s cry
Sinks into the stone.

—Translated by David Bowles, July 2013

Original Japanese

shizukasa ya
iwa ni shimiiru
semi no koe

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