A Monk Sips Morning Tea

A Monk Sips Morning Tea
written by Matsuo Bashō
translated by Robert Hass

A monk sips morning tea,
it’s quiet,
the chrysanthemum’s flowering.

Poetry Competition of Artisans, vol.2 from a set of three vols The original work, which was also copied, was made in 1632.

My last posts have been all about how nicely tea compliments things–Red Rocks and milk, iced tea and golf. Those are a few of my favorite combinations, but the one that really pleases me the most is undoubtedly tea and poetry. There’s a meditative quality to both brewing tea and composing poetry. Certainly the world’s most famous haiku poet, Matsuo Basho, knew a great deal about both. In English, the haiku above loses some compositional rules which would have applied to Basho in his time, but even still there’s a careful cadence that must be upheld in composing a haiku. To put it simply, the haiku is dominated by two phrases, here the first line stands alone and the second/third lines stand together. Likewise, there must be a seasonal presence in the poem, here illustrated through the blossoming of chrysanthemum flowers.

A good cup of tea is the same, dominated by two parts–brewing time and brewing temperature. Which tea you choose to drink is often dependent upon the season (or time of day, or minute of the hour). The pleasure of brewing tea and composing poetry comes from a similar practice, a certain love for the art, and a satisfaction with what you’ve made from such simple ingredients. I could go on and on drawing up the similarities (the evolution of growth & the evolution of language, for example), but I’ll skip straight to the point. I encourage you to sit down with a cup of tea, a pad and a pen, and write yourself a haiku as you sip. You’ll find the practice meditative and rewarding, I promise. I think right now I’ll honor master Basho with a cup of our Sencha and a new haiku:

Your form like a flower
on the stone walk, a goldfish peers
through fallen leaves.

What was Basho drinking? Something similar to our Sencha, perhaps? Maybe our Jasmine Green Pu’Erh?


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