It was extremely rare for well-bred ladies in old Japan to meet with men who were not related to them face-to-face. A man paying court to a woman, if he was very lucky, might be given a seat immediately before the curtain separating the interior of the room, where the lady remained, from the exterior. From there, he could converse with one of the lady’s maids who would relay his messages to her mistress, and her mistress’s messages back. If he listened carefully, he might just catch the sound of the lady’s voice as she spoke to her maid-the first tangible sign he would have of her beyond her handwriting. Naturally this would encourage him to imagine what the lady must be like, and this is the situation to which this poem is referring.