Fire of the gods; a pale-apricot twilight


kami no ka ya usukōbai no yūmagure

(Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規)


Pale apricot, usukōbai, is one of the (vast number of) traditional Japanese color names, and is a kind of light pink—see example here. The same word is also a spring season word, since apricot, ume, blossoms in spring. The poem can be understood in two ways: (1) the twilight itself is apricot-colored; (2) the twilight is the backdrop of blossoming apricot trees. For usukōbai to function as a season word, meaning (2) is necessary—so the poem probably refers both to the color of the sky and to the color of actual flowers.

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Journal of Japanese Poetry Translation

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