One of the great masters of haiku, Basho wrote in the seventeenth century, when Edo was Japan's capital. His poetry broke from the decadent style of the time, finding instead a resonance with nature, simplicity, spontaneity, and originality. The first poem alludes to an old nursery rhyme about a flea that climbed over Fuji carrying a tea grinder on its back. It is said to refer to Toyotomi no Hideyoshi, a farmer's son who wished to rule Japan, but whose ambition was too great for him to fulfill. ED


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