24 April 2011

Chŏng Chŏl, Pak Illo, & Yun Sŏndo

[from Pine River and Lone Peak: An Anthology of Three Chosŏn Poets, tr. Peter H. Lee, Hawaii, 1991]

Chŏng Chŏl



Let us strain sour wine and drink
Until our mouths become sour.
Let us steam bitter herbs and chew them
Until they turn sweet.
Let us walk around
Until the nails in our clogs have worn flat.


Let forty thousand pecks of pearls
Rest on the lotus leaves.
I box them and measure them
To send them off somewhere.
Tumultuous rolling drops –
How zestful, graceful.
lotus leaf trichomes


I press the second note on the third string
Of the Black Zither.
The sound surges like a stream freed of ice
Rushing up from the shallows.
Distant raindrops, too, play in concert;
They beat on lotus leaves.

Pak Illo

Early Red Persimmons (1601)
[Chohongsi ka]


When a crow joins
A flock of phoenix,
It’s like a single rock
In a pile of white jade.
Enough! Phoenix too are birds.
Why not mingle with them and play?

crow feather

Twenty-nine Songs on the Standing Rock (1629)
[Ibam isipku kokk]


Let me ask you again quietly
How many thousands of years old you are.
Your age is surely great,
And mine small.
Now let us grow old together,
You and I.


With my small thatched hut
Set among boulders,
My feeble eyes are used to
The colors of bamboo and pine.
Here I cannot tell
When spring goes and autumn comes.

Songs of the Five Relations (after 1634)
[Oryun ka]


When heaven begot men,
Marriage thus began.
Heaven fixed worthy matches,
Important are man and wife.
Make a morning of your life
And harmonize like small and large zithers together.

Yun Sŏndo

The Angler’s Calendar (1651)
[Ŏbu sasi sa]


The sun’s fair rays are shining,
Water shimmers like oil.
Row away, row away!
Should we cast a net,
Or drop a line on such a day?
Chigukch’ong chigukch’ong ŏsawa.
The Fisherman’s Song stirs my fancy;
I have forgotten all about fishing.


Where is it, where am I?
Are heaven and earth separate?
Moor the boat, moor the boat!
Since the west wind’s dust can’t reach us,
Why fan off the empty air?
Chigukch’ong chigukch’ong ŏsawa.
Further, since I have heard no words,
Why should I bother to wash my ears?

hair cells of a guinea pig's inner ear

1 comment:

  1. Dave Manning18:13

    These are lovely charming poems.