I appreciate your reflections, Lorin. Indeed, our 21st century judgment was, for the most part, closely in tune with Basho's. The midwife's bloody hand is a strong and daring image. I'm a little surprised that no one questioned the use of metaphor--a rhetorical ploy that is out of fashion in EL haiku these days. Maybe we forgive the leap from midwife's hand to the autumn leaves because the juxtaposition is so striking and original. Maybe Basho felt the same way. Still, there's a problem with metaphor, even a bold one like Sanboku's: for me, as a reader, there's too much cleverness in it--akin to the use of rhyme but not quite as bad--that pulls me away from the moment and into a consciousness of the poet's wit. As such the poem puts artifice in the foreground instead of hiding it in the background, as great poets (from Basho on down to 2011) have done. I have a feeling that this poem, even though it's the better of the two, wouldn't be accepted for publication today.
I thank all of you for participating in these Seashell Games. If you feel like adding more thoughts, please do. Otherwise, we can all pat ourselves on the backs for a job well done: a high-level discussion that (as I think I've said before) made me feel like I was in a graduate seminar--the kind of course that I wish had existed back when I was a grad student. Ah well, better late than never.
Speaking of late, as I write this it's approaching 3:00 a.m. on Mardi Gras morning. The partying throngs (who woke me two hours ago) must have crawled back into their holes until tomorrow. Happy Carnival to all! Perhaps, tomorrow when I'm watching the Rex parade and screaming for beads, an idea for the next Periplum topic will conk me on the head like a Zulu coconut. We shall see!