The Moon, that peeped as she came up,
Is clear on top, with all her light;
She rests her chin on Nailsworth Hill,
And, where she looks, the World is white.
White with her light -- or is it Frost,
Or is it Snow her eyes have seen;
Or is it Cherry blossom there,
Where no such trees have ever been?
W. H. Davies, Complete Poems (1963).
Over the past few months, when reading Chinese and Japanese poetry, I have been coming across images of frost and blossoms and snow and moonlight being confused. From China, here is a poem by Li Po:
Still Night Thoughts
Moonlight in front of my bed --
I took it for frost on the ground!
I lift my eyes to watch the mountain moon,
lower them and dream of home.
Li Po (translated by Burton Watson), The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century (1984).
The following poem is by Po Chu-i:
Gray gray of frosty grasses, insects chirp-chirping;
south of the village, north of the village, no sign of travelers.
Alone I go out in front of the gate, gazing over the fields;
in the bright moonlight, buckwheat blossoms are like snow.
Po Chu-i (translated by Burton Watson), Ibid.
"Reflected Moon, Sarashima"
From Japan, here is a poem by Kokan Shiren (1278-1345):
Opening the window at midnight, the night air cold,
Garden and roof a gleaming white,
I go to the verandah, stretch out my hand to scoop up some snow --
Didn't I know that moonlight won't make a ball?
Kokan Shiren (translated by David Pollack), Zen Poems of the Five Mountains (1985).
And, finally, from Ryokan:
Fresh morning snow in front of the shrine.
The trees! Are they white with peach blossoms
Or white with snow?
The children and I joyfully throw snowballs.
Ryokan (translated by John Stevens), One Robe, One Bowl: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan (1977).
"Catching Fish by Moonlight on the Tama River"