The Death of Sōgi (Sōgi shūenki, 1502), by Sōchō, and The Death of Master Bashō (Bashō-ō shūenki, 1694), by Kikaku, are among the most important death accounts in the premodern Japanese literary corpus. Written by preeminent disciples of the poets, these accounts provide vital information about the careers of two of Japan’s most iconic literary figures and their circles of disciples. In Buddhist terms, they bear witness to the conviction that poetry itself can constitute a form of prayer that contributes to the repose and rebirth of the deceased.
This book provides annotated translations of both memorials, Sōchō’s account of Sōgi’s death constituting an upper verse to which Kikaku linked his lower verse describing the death of Bashō. They are preceded here by an introduction that outlines how these thanatographies served the departed and the bereaved—death and discipleship—and how both memorials were subjectively fashioned in response to venerable literary precedents and to new standards of taste. Color images of paintings of the masters and their disciples add to the presentation.