The host and three priests: long blue robes, hemmed in silk brocade, showing high wooden geta at the bottom. And the guest, the poet Basho: flat spring sandals, thin jacket of quilted cotton. They walk in a line up the snowy trail between pine and the thin-boned maple that whine like a koto in the wind. At the hillcrest, beneath a bamboo awning, they gather in a circle: a snow-watching party - five old men, imaginations flaring. One shivers and shifts from foot to foot. One stares, head back, at the snow-scattered air. They are silent for long minutes at a time, studying the feather-white blue-shadowed slope. Even if the spindly-legged deer hadn't walked by, two fawns in tow - even if the moon hadn't finally shoveled itself a black path across the sky - clear, at last, for only a moment or so - still, it would have been a glory night: just the new snow, freshened eyes, the cold-sparked skin and the visitor from Edo. Already the poems are simmering. Together, they turn and go, floating (or so it seems) back down the path. With lacquered parasols frosted white, they seem a string of full moons setting in the valley. From my window even now I can see them clearly - descending, slowly, snow-entranced, three centuries and six thousand miles in the distance.