The poem was written near the end of the poet’s life, when he was 71, and was likely inspired by Zen Buddhism as well as his thoughts about what was going to happen after he died. Would he be reborn like the snow turns into “water once again?”
The snow of yesterday Koshigaya GozanThe snow of yesterdayThat fell like cherry blossomsIs water once again
Explore The snow of yesterday
‘The snow of yesterday’ by Koshigaya Gozan depicts the transient nature of beauty and life.
It describes how the snow that fell yesterday, resembling delicate cherry blossoms, has melted and transformed into water once again. The poem captures the ephemeral and brief nature of existence, emphasizing the impermanence of beauty and the constant cycle of change (this taps into a popular belief in Zen Buddhism).
Structure and Form
‘The snow of yesterday’ by Koshigaya Gozan is a three-line poem that takes the form of a classical haiku. It’s important to note, right off the bat, that this poem was translated from the original Japanese. This means that some structural elements, like the syllable count, have been lost in translation. Any letter-based literary devices are also a result of the translation and not the poet’s original intentions (like alliteration, assonance, or consonance).
In this poem, the poet makes use of a few different literary devices. For example:
- Imagery: occurs when the poet uses particularly interesting and impactful imagery. For example, “fell like cherry blossoms.”
- Simile: a comparison between two things that uses “like” or “as.” For example, “The snow of yesterday / fell like cherry blossoms.”
- Enjambment: this literary device is seen when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines one and two.
The snow of yesterday
The first line of the poem, ‘The snow of yesterday,’ describes the setting Gozan was interested in. By referring to the snow as “the snow of yesterday,” the poet immediately establishes a time dimension to the text, implying that the snowfall occurred in the past. This fact prompts reflection on the fleeting nature of the snow, it’s here for one moment, and then it’s gone.
Furthermore, the choice of “snow” as the subject of the line carries symbolic significance. Snow is often associated with purity, innocence, and beauty. It can evoke a sense of wonder and enchantment. However, snow is also known for its brief existence, melting away as temperatures rise. By emphasizing the temporary nature of the snow, the poet highlights the fragile and fleeting nature of beauty.
The juxtaposition of “yesterday” further emphasizes the passing of time. It signifies that the beauty and allure of the snow were experienced in the recent past but have already vanished. This notion of the immediate past being relegated to memory intensifies the sense of transience and the inevitable passage of time.
That fell like cherry blossoms
The second line of the poem, “That fell like cherry blossoms,” deepens the imagery and symbolism introduced in the first line. The comparison of the falling snow to cherry blossoms creates a vivid and evocative image in the reader’s mind (this is an example of a simile).
Cherry blossoms are renowned for their delicate and ethereal beauty. They symbolize the beauty in life (especially how temporary that beauty is). By likening the falling snow to cherry blossoms, the poet establishes a parallel between these two elements of nature, emphasizing their shared qualities of beauty and impermanence.
The simile “fell like cherry blossoms” not only enhances the sensory experience of the poem but also underscores the poetic sensibility of the snowfall. It suggests that the snow descended gracefully, perhaps in a gentle and mesmerizing manner, akin to the falling petals of cherry blossoms. This comparison imbues the snowfall with a sense of elegance, evoking a serene and poetic atmosphere.
The use of cherry blossoms in this line carries cultural and symbolic significance in Japanese literature and aesthetics. In Japanese culture, cherry blossoms (sakura) have long been associated with the transient nature of life and the concept of mono no aware, which is an appreciation of the impermanence of things.
Is water once again
The final line of the poem, “Is water once again,” encapsulates the transformative nature of the snow, bringing the theme of impermanence full circle. This simple statement carries profound implications and serves as a poignant conclusion to the poem.
By stating that the snow has become water once again, the poet emphasizes the transient and ever-changing nature of existence. It suggests that the snow, which initially captivated with its beauty and evoked the imagery of cherry blossoms, has undergone a complete transformation (or reincarnation). The snow has melted, losing its form and essence, and returned to its original state of water. This transformation highlights the cyclical nature of life, where nothing remains static or permanent.
The use of the phrase “once again” further reinforces the idea of cycles and repetition. It suggests that this transformation from snow to water is not a singular event but part of an ongoing process. It implies that the water will, in turn, undergo further transformations and continue its journey through the cycles of nature.
The simplicity and directness of the final line also contribute to its impact. The use of the verb “is” followed by the noun “water” creates a concise statement that carries a sense of finality. It leaves the reader with a profound realization that everything in life eventually reverts to its fundamental nature.
The purpose of ‘The snow of yesterday’ is to explore and convey the theme of impermanence. The poem serves as a meditation on the fleeting nature of beauty and the transitory experiences in life.
The importance of ‘The snow of yesterday’ lies in its ability to capture the essence of impermanence and convey it through clear images and concise language. The poem reminds readers of the way that living things transform and take on new forms.
The theme of ‘The snow of yesterday’ is the impermanence of beauty and the transient nature of life. The poem explores the idea that all things in life, including moments of beauty and joy, are fleeting and subject to change.
Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some related poems. For example:
- ‘After killing a spider’ by Masaoka Shiki – describes the negative and dark effects of killing a spider.
- ‘A poppy blooms’ by Katsushika Hokusai – is a thoughtful poem about writing. The poet uses a metaphor to depict how his process works.
- ‘Drifting Flowers of the Sea’ by Sadakichi Hartmann – describes the presence of white flowers and their relation to perseverance and unspoken dreams.