A Cold Winter’s Night: Poem Number 6

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This poem has over the years stuck with me every July as the Japanese festival of Tanabata approaches, but also in the deep of winter too.

JapaneseRomanizationTranslation
かささぎのKasasagi noWhen I see the whiteness
わたせる橋にwataseru hashi niof the frost that lies
おく霜のoku shimo noon the bridge the magpies spread,
白きを見ればshiro wo mirebathen do I know, indeed,
夜ぞふけにけるyo zo fuke ni keruthat the night has deepened.
Translation by Dr Joshua Mostow

The reference to the Magpie’s Bridge is from two places: the Imperial Palace at the time had a set of stairs called the Magpie’s Bridge, but also in later generations, this also referred to the famous legend of Tanabata. On the night when Orihime and Hikoboshi would meet every year, they could cross a bridge made of magpies whose wings were extended end to end.

In both ways, the poem expresses a lonely, long, and cold winter’s night.

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