Footsteps in the Snow: A Poem By Lady Izumi

For my birthday, I picked up a great book on poetry by the 12th century lady-in-waiting, Lady Izumi, called izumi shikibu (和泉式部) in Japanese. Her life has been an interest of mine, and I was happy to find good quality translation of her works.1 The book has a collection of her poems spanning various topics, including this one for winter:

待つ人のMatsu hito noIf the one I’ve waited for
今も来たらばima mo kitara bacame now, what should I do?
いかがせむikaga senThis morning’s garden filled with snow
踏ままく惜しきfumamaku oshikiis far too lovely
庭の雪かなniwa no yuki ka nafor footsteps to mar.
trans. by Hirshfield and Aratani

Because the old Heian Period aristocracy was such a closed society, and the public scrutinized everything you said and did, romantic meetings often took at night, and only after careful arrangement. Lady Izumi, according to the translators, was likely stood up for some reason after waiting all night, but she tries to take it in stride with this poem.

1 The best part about the book is that each poem comes with the original Japanese at the end of the book, so you can recite it as is, or look it up in Japanese.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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