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.
|かささぎの||Kasasagi no||When I see the whiteness|
|わたせる橋に||wataseru hashi ni||of the frost that lies|
|おく霜の||oku shimo no||on the bridge the magpies spread,|
|白きを見れば||shiro wo mireba||then do I know, indeed,|
|夜ぞふけにける||yo zo fuke ni keru||that the night has deepened.|
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.