The most beautiful shape one could possibly think of for a pine tree.

Excerpts from Basho, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. 

“My heart leaped with joy when I saw the celebrated pine tree of Takekuma, its twin trunks shaped exactly as described by the ancient poets. I was immediately reminded of the Priest Noin who had grieved to find upon his second visit this same tree cut and thrown into the RIver Natori as bridge-piles by the newly-appointed governor of the province. This tree had been planted, cut, and replanted several times in the past, but just when I came to see it myself, it was in its original shape after a lapse of perhaps a thousand years, the most beautiful shape one could possibly think of for a pine tree. The Poety Kyohaku wrote was follows at the time of my departure to express his good wishes for my journey.

“Don’t forget to show my master
The famous pine of Takekuma,
Late cherry blossoms
Of the far north.

“The following poem I wrote was, therefore, a reply.

“The months after we saw
Cherry blossoms together
I came to see the glorious
Twin trunks of the pine.


“In this ever-changing world where mountains crumble, rivers change their courses, roads are deserted, rocks are buried, and old trees yield to young shoots, it was nothing short of a miracle that this monument alone had survived the battering of a thousand years to be the living memory of the ancients. I felt as if I were in the presence of the ancients themselves, and, forgetting all the troubles I had suffered on the road, rejoiced in the utter happiness of this joyful moment, not without tears in my eyes.”


From Matsuo Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, as translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa. Penguin Books, New York, New York: 1966.