Snowfall: Poem Number 31
January 4, 2013
Similar to the previous poem, this one deals with the moon, but I think this poem epitomizes the winter season:
有明の月と ariake no tsuki to
みるまでに miru made ni
吉野の里に Yoshino no sato ni
ふれる白雪 fureru shirayuki
Which Professor Mostow translates as:
So that I thought it
the light of the lingering moon
the white snow that has fallen
on the village of Yoshino
The author, Sakanoue no Korenori, is one of the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry, but otherwise nothing much is known about him.
This poem, as Professor Mostow explains, is similar to poem 29, and is part of a theme on “elegant confusion” which is a hallmark of Chinese poetry. Early poetry in Japan was still greatly indebted to Chinese poetry and many of the imagery, and idioms used in the Hyakunin Isshu anthology are not exception.
I happen to like this poem also because it has a lot of obscure, but cool Japanese poetic terms. We’ve seen ariake discussed in poem 30, but also this poem uses the term asaborake (朝ぼらけ) which means a dawn in either winter or autumn. It’s a kind of slow, late dawn that you only find in that time of year. Compare with akatsuki (暁), which Professor Mostow explains can mean “dawn” any time of the year.
Also, I am not sure which village of “Yoshino” this poem refers to, but I suspect it might be the Yoshino in Nara Prefecture. I could be wrong though.