Last updated October 29, 2008


Joan Grigsby and her sources


In this page, I hope to establish clearly the relationship between the poems published by Joan S. Grigsby in The Orchid Door and the original English translations by James Gale (and others) on which they are based, convinced that there is no point in criticizing Joan Grigsbys poems as defective translations of Korean originals because the poets intention was to radically transform Gales versions, taking them into her own poetic world, that had already been developed in her 3 previous volumes.


The titles of the poems in The Orchid Door that were taken from Gales History of the Korean People are coloured brown in this list. Titles of poems not published there but found (anonymously but almost surely by Gale) in issues of the Korea Magazine (1917-19) are marked in green.


The Orchid Door  
Lament of The Ferryman's Wife 
Yellow Birds  
In The Night  
Lament For Prince Chagoo   
At The Eagle Record Pass
The River
The Swallows  
Thoughts After an Audience With The King 
Meditating on The Start of a New Era 
A Meeting of Friends in The Mountains  
Kwak Yu Received at The Hermit's Retreat 
On The Death of His Little Daughter   (Also discussed below)
The Louse and The Dog  
Morning Thoughts  
The Pine Tree Picture Screen  
His Shadow in The Water  
Looking Into The Well
Remembering The South 
China's Snow  
Resting at The Inn After Riding Through The Snow  
The Three Horned Peaks 
From The Valley
Lament For His Master   (This and the two following may be inspired by the lament by Yi Sungin on p 218-9 of Gales History)
Remembering His Friend  
Autumn Song
The Peach Garden  
In Kang-Nam  
The Palace of The Moon  
The Book of Blue Jade   9
To a Dead Buddhist Friend   
The Neglected Wife   
Thoughts in a Country Retreat   
To My Master, Kang Heu-In   
The Grave of So-Koon   
White Banners   
Thinking of Yi Chayun in The Pyungsan Hills   
Meditation in The Chiri Hills    
Meditation on a Summer Evening   
While Traveling as Envoy to China   
The Flowery Rock Pavilion   
Thinking of His Country's Woes   
An Artist Paints a Picture of Purple Orchids  
A Fishing Song   
A Flower of The Hills    
Inscribed on The Gate of Honor to Hyang-Nang   
Regret in Exile    
The Weary Ox   
Looking at The Master's Fan Box  
Thinking of Lady Yang at Midnight    
Thinking of Lady Yang at Midnight
Reading a Poetry Scroll and Thinking of Lady Yang   
A Poet Buried Beside a Rice Field   
Songs of Ki-Sang
Announcing Names   
Orchid Boat
Willow Green
Tinted Cloud
Remembering " Rising Moon "   
Rainbow Sleeves    Anon.
Moon of White jade  
"Yesterday a Thousand Soldiers"   
Returning Footsteps
Talking About " Lotus Bud   
Come Not at Dawn
The Amber Moon    Anon.
Walking by The Sea and Thinking   
Dreaming of a Letter
To My Son   
Meeting a Priest on a Mountain Bridge  


(page numbers below after Gale refer to the RAS-KB edition of Gales History (2nd edition, 1983) by Richard Rutt.)



(Korea Magazine February 1917 59)


What is the oldest piece of Korean composition known?

It is found in the Chinese book called the Ko-tang-si (sic Gale. Korean sources usually refer to Gu jin zhu ͯ. Br Anthony) and was written by a woman about the beginning of the Christian era. It is called the Kong-hoo-in (箜篌 Kong-hoo Tune).

             The song Kong-hoo was written by the wife of a Korean sailor, Kwak-ni Cha-go ڰ(), whose name was Yaw-ok (). Cha-go rose early one morning to scull his boat across the river, when a wild man with a white head came swimming toward him in the whirling water. The mans wife followed after him to the bank to stop him, but before she could lay hold, he was into the stream and drowned. In her distress she sang a wild song of lamentation, and then plunged in after him and was drowned likewise. Cha-go, the sailor returned and told his wife what he had seen. She was greatly upset by it and wrote this song (corrected, the Magazine has the lines in the order 1,3,2,4)

Ԥ ()

Ԥ (浵)



(The Wife)       

I shouted to avoid the stream

But he unheeding plunged him in ;

Down, deep beneath, he sinks from sight.

What shall he do ? Alas for him !

             The foreign attempt at a translation gives the reader no idea of its worth, but this old note, added, is suggestive, The ancients, criticising this said, Each line has its special measure of music ;  and each measure its expression of sorrow. The lines are short and the verse very very sad.


Lament of The Ferryman's Wife


This is credibly stated to be the oldest piece of Korean literature extant.  It was discovered in a Chinese book called " Ko-tang-si." This record states that the song was made by a woman, Yaw-oh, wife of a ferryman, Chago.  One day, when Chago was crossing the river, he saw a man swimming in the stream.    At that moment the man's wife rushed wailing to the bank and tried to save him, but she was too late.  The rapid current overcame him and he sank.  The woman then set up a wild lamentation, jumped into the river and disappeared.  Chago told his wife what he had seen.  She was greatly distressed and made the following curious "Lament." In the original each line has its special measure of music and each measure is an expression of sorrow.


Grey willow trees that by the river sway,

Green reeds that whisper to the pebbled sand,

                 Will you not weep for her ?


Wind that blows through the forest day by day,

River that flows so swiftly to the sea,

                  Did you not hear her cry ?


Over the meadow, gay with iris flowers,

She sped; but, all in vain, she came too late.

                  Will you not weep, blue flowers ?



(Clearly Joan Grigsby was encouraged by Gales note to create a completely new poem, no longer spoken by the wife and centered on the man but spoken by an observer in celebration of the woman. Br Anthony)



King Yuris Song

Ȳ      The orioles frolick,

ڿ       Couple together.

Լ        But I am alone:

        With whom shall I go? 

(Trans. Kim Jong-Gil)


Gale  129

O lilting, joyous yellow bird

You mate to live and love each other

While I, alas, unloved, unheard

Have lost my everything, sweet brother. 


Gale relates a traditional story according to which King Yuri had two queens, one Chinese and one Korean. While he was absent, the queens quarreled and the Chinese queen returned home in shame or disgust. The king, hearing of this, pursued and overtook her but she refused to return depite his protestations of love. Finally giving up, the king was on his way home when he saw two orioles mating. This poem is said to be the result.


     Yellow Birds


In yellow sunlight on the golden road

I stand alone.

All, all are mine—rice fields and golden road,

All but the one thing I desire.

In a tree by the road two yellow birds are mating.

Why must they sing so gaily ?



Choe Chung: By Night

  (Gale 186)


The light I saw when I awoke,

Was from the torch that has no smoke;

The hill whose shade came through the wall

Has paid an unexpected call.

The music of the pine-trees wings

Comes from the harp that has no strings.

I see and hear the sight, the song ;

Would I could pass its joys along !


In The Night


Light of the silver torch that has no smoke

Recalls me from the seventh world of sleep.

A shadow pine tree grows upon my wall.

On the white paper of my window screen

A shadow hill by shadow brush is drawn.

All life is shadow in my room tonight.

I know not if I wake or if I sleep –

Music breathes through the silence; can it be

Wind in the shadow pine tree, or a song

Drawn. from a hidden harp that has no string?




Anon (tribute to Pak Chesangs wife)

  (Gale 148)


Who first built ships to force this sad farewell?

Would that the wind and storms might block his way.

Who made the sea to bar all safe return?

Had I but power, Id sweep the sea away.

Who gave the savage leave to kill my lord?

Would that the deeps might whelm this island oer.

Id cross mid-air had I but wings to fly,

An eagle bird that scorns the miles of space,

A spirit Ill return to guard this pass for ever.


At The Eagle Record Pass


Alone upon the Eagle Pass I stand

And look through tears towards the empty sea.

Who first made ships to carry life away ?

Who made the waves? They foam ten thousand miles

Before night falls, but always they return

To touch the long moon-yellow sands of home.

There will be no returning for my lord.


Mist on the land where wild barbarians wait

To slay him; mist upon crowded peaks

Which stay the feet that sped to this farewell

And came too late and now will speed no more.

O soul, go forth from me; become a cloud;

And, with the grey mist, fly across the waves !

The wid blows down the pass. The eagles scream.

The yellow shades rise up to mock my tears.




Choi Chi Wun : Tea

(Korea Magazine January 1917  15)


Today a gift of tea comes to me from the general of the forces by the hand of one of his trusty aides. Very many thanks! Tea was first grown in Chok and brought to great excellence of cultivation. It was one of the rareties in the gardens of the Soo Kingdom (589-618 A.D.). The practice of picking the leaves began then and its clear and grateful flavors from that time were known. Its specially fine qualities are manifest when its delicate leaves are steeped in a golden kettle. The fragrance of its aroma ascends from the while goblets into which it is poured. If it were not to the quiet abode of the genii that I am invited to make my respectful obeissance, or to those high angels whose wings have grown, how could ever such a gift of the gods come to a common literati like me? I need not now a sight of the plum forest to quench my thirst, nor any day-lilies to drive away my care. Very many thanks, and much grateful appreciation.



Tea is the flower of Soo. The budding leaves

Fill with their murmur every fragrant garden.

Here, while my golden kettle gently sings,

I brew your gift and slowly sip,

While perfumed steam ascends.

On such a cloud a poet's spirit soars.

Surely my soul will touch the clouded heights

And come again with sweet immortal songs

Or why should such a drinkthe wine of gods-

Refresh a humble scholar like myself ?


There was a time when I would seek in sleep

The plum bloom's snow to quench my fevered thirst.


And often I have filled this dragon vase

With liliesflowers of peaceto soothe my eyes.

But now-your gift of tea ! I need no more

To calm my spirit or refresh my dreams.


Slowly I sip and, in the rising steam,

Picture each hour of friendship we have known.

                        Accept my grateful thanks !




Urŭk : No title

 (Gale 154)


O rapid stream that flows through mountain gorges,

Pray dont be glad swift-winged to flow away ;

When once you fall into the deep blue sea,

Theres no return. Lets wait before we go.


    The River


Walking alone on the left bank of the river

I watched the heron seek her reedy nest.


Watching white clouds, like feathered jackets fall

Into the space between two mountain peaks,

Even my soul found respite from her cares.


Only the restless river hurried on,

Sweeping from grottoes of the mountain gorge

Down to the level rice fields of the plain,

Hurrying, hurrying ever to the ocean.


Why do you flow so swiftly, little river ?

You will be lost in the blue space of the ocean

And to your mountains there is no returning.




Choe Chiwŏn: The Swallow

  (Gale 168)


She goes with the fading summer

And comes with returning spring ;

Faithful and true is she,

Regular as the gentle winds

Or chilly rains of autumn.

We are old friends, she and I.

You know, ungrateful bird, that I have always

Consented to your occupying a place

In my spacious home, but more than once you soiled

The painted rafters. Are you not ashamed?

You leave hawks and uncanny birds far off

In islands of the sea, and come to join

Your heron friends in streams and synnu shallows.

Your rank is equal to that of the goldfinch,

I should think ; but when it comes, finch-like,

To bringing home finger-rings in your bill

As gifts to your master, you fail me !




The Swallows


After the peach tree sheds her rosy bloom

I turn toward the south and watch for you.

Lightly you float before the gentle breeze,

Like blossoms from the garden of the moon.

Thus you return from far, enchanted lands

Where red-plumed birds that I would fear to name

Hover in dreadful swamps and dragons lurk.


Now, in our reedy shallows of the north

You seem content to join your quieter friends—

White herons and the ibis of the stream.

Sweet is the hour of sunrise when I wake

To hear you chattering below my eaves.


Sweet is the noon. I sit with pipe and fan

And watch your wings against the deep blue sky,

Flicker like silver flames.

   We are old friends.

Spring after spring I wait for your return.

Autumn by autumn, when the chill winds blow,

My eyes grow dim as you fly south again.


I am delighted that you share my roof

And build your nest below these painted eaves.

I only wish you would not soil my rafters !

I am ashamed for you—ill mannered birds !





Kim Poo Sik: Mo-Ran Pong, Pyeng-Yang

(Korea Magazine June 1917 260)


Fresh from an audience with the king,

I reach this most delightful spot ;

Where nature with its thousand tints,

Calls on my wondering eyes to see.

There peak on peak, blue-tinted, dim,

Mark off the skys far-reaching line.

Beneath this strong, embracing wall

The restless river moves along.

The willows hide from vulgar view

A place to cheer, where drink is sold.

What do I see beneath the moon ?

An angler with long rod, intent.

Too Muk-Joo wished before he died

To be a man of leisure, free.

I too have only one desire,

That some such luck might come to me.



Thoughts After an Audience With The King


Moonlight and peace upon the river bank !

After an audience at the Dragon Throne

How kind to me this gentle silence seems !


After gay silken robes and waving fans

How restful is the stately tapestry

Of willow boughs against the rising moon !


After the splendors of the painted roof

How soft I find the dim blue distances

Unfolded from the gauze veils of the moon !


Peak upon peak, blue tinted hills of dream

Arise to break the far horizon line.

There would my soul fly, greatly needing rest.


Yet here is much of beauty, much delight.

Remain awhile, my soul. The river sings,

Sweeping below the wall on which I lean.


I am disquieted by the heavy task

That lies before me.

In the Willow Inn

Beside the river I will rest tonight.


I'll drink a little wine and soon forget

These troublous thoughts.


More brightly shines the moon.

The King has given me a battle axe.


Under the willows on the river bank

A midnight angler swings his bamboo pole.

His is a traquil spirit, well content.


He is like Too Mok-joo who, long ago,

Came, before death, to leisure and to peace.


I, too, would know such tranquil ways and yet-


Why have I promised to direct an army ?


A fishing pole, trees, wine below the moon

Are all I really ask for.

                       Am I drunk ?




Combing the Hair

  (Gale 181)


The jade-like flame that lights my room burns low ;

Across the boundless deep the dawn shafts rise.

I sit in silence and close down my wakeful breath,

While with my hands I hold its will in leash.

The locks beneath my ears grow gray ;

With moon-shaped comb I smooth and brush them out.

White flakes drop round me like the falling snow.

As gold by passing through the fire, not once,

But many times, is rendered pure,

So does a combing-out make new the man,

And help his soul to live and flourish fair.

Tis like the cock refreshing in his dust-bath,

Or when the horses roll and roll again

Upon the sand : Such is a good head-comb.

The master, Tung-po, too, hath said the same.


Meditating on The Start of a New Era


My candle burns a flame of jade.

The peachwood comb goes through my hair

This way and that. My head is clean.

The old dead hairs fall to the ground.

I build my topknot fresh and firm.


Would that we so might comb the State

Free of her follies and her greed !

So cast aside old dead ideas

And build new strength to face our foes !


Too soon my candle gutters down.

The flame of jade is lost in grease,

And sleep drowns my desires.




   Kwak Yŏ

     (Gale 191)


Far to the east, off here among the hills

We meet again who never thought to meet.

Full thirty years ago before the King

We wrote our best for fame and fortunes sake ;

But lengthening suns have drawn us far apart,

And clouds in spotless white have led you on,

The moon too, silver shield across the water.

We meet, we look, but have no words to say

Our spirits hold their silent intercourse.


A Meeting of Friends in The Mountains


Among the mountains after thirty years

We meet again who in our youth were one.


We toiled together then by candlelight

Until the Horn grew pale, the Willow grey.


But lengthening suns have drawn us far apart.

You turned your eyes away from orchid doors.

The grove of brushes called to you in vain.

Only the blue crane and the silver cloud,

Ever receding, ever drew you on.

Sunset and dawn have been your red brocades,

Moonlight your wine, poured firm a lapis bowl.


Now, with my feet upon the bridge of jade,

I pause, I falter, speechless gaze at you.

                       How may our spirits meet  ?




Yi Chahyŏn (a reply to the previous poem)

  (Gale 191)


This grateful visit turns the season rounds

And brings me orders from my lord the king.

Shu Chi and Po I rose and left the world

To save their souls, while Chi and Heieh marched on

To please high heaven ; your honoured self likewise

With stamp and seal. When will you doff your hat

And shake your soul from out this dusty world ?

Is it not here that you and I may hide

And bend our steps to where immortals dwell?


Kwak Yu Received at The Hermit's Retreat


Last night, the autumn moon—departing wings.

Today, your visit and returning summer.


Every day since our parting I have thought of you.

At night I ask the moon to peer through your window

That, when she returns to this mountain,

She may bring me news of my friend.


But the moon is always silent.


Often I wonder whether you, too, remember

When you see blue flowers lying aslant the moon.

Reading the ancient books you must have marked

How many sought the cloud-enfolded path.

Sookje, Paiki, name after name, they shine

Like crystal beads threaded on silken cord.


Often, when I thought of you, I wondered

How soon you would weary of your stamp and seal.


Take off your wide-winged hat. Set free your hair.

The wind will blow the world dust from your mind.

Rest here in peace upon this rocky bed.

Though pine trees whisper they are never plotting.

The watchful stars are never seeking evil.

The clouds' soft garment does not hide a knife.


We shared our springtime. Passing winter together,

Beyond the snow line, we shall reach the Immortal Garden.





Yi Kyu Bo : On the death of his little daughter

(Korea Magazine May 1917 204)


My little girl with face like shining snow

So wise and bright was never seen before.

At two she talked both free and clear

Better than parrots tongue was ever heard.

At three, retiring, sweet and timid, she

Kept modestly within the outer gates.

This year she had been four,

 And learned her first wee lessons with the pen.

What shall I do, alas, since she is gone?

 A flash of light she came and fled away ;

A fledgling of the springtime, she ;

My little pigeon of this troubled nest.

I know of God, and so can calmly wait,

But what will help the mothers tears to dry ?

I look out toward the distant fields,

 The ears shoot forth upon the stalks of grain,

Yet wind and hail sometimes await unseen.

When once they strike the world has fallen full low.

Tis God who gives us life ;

 Tis God who takes our life away.

How can both death and life continue so ?

 These changes seem like deathly phantoms drear.

We hang on turnings of the wheel of fate.

 Lets give it up since thus we are.


On The Death of His Little Daughter


My little girl with face like shining snow

How empty now the silent courtyards seem

Where once her gay skirt flashed among the flowers !


At two she talked like some wise parrot's tongue.

At three, retiring, sweet and very shy,

She hid herself behind the outer gate.


This year, being four, her tiny hand should hold

Her first small brush. I would have taught her well.

But she is gone. Only the brush remains.


My little pigeon of this troubled nest,

Why did you fly away so very soon ?

A flash of lightyou came. A flashyou fled.


I, who have learned to watch the passing days,

Can count them calmly still. But who shall dry

A mother's falling tears ?

  Across the fields

A raging storm draws near.


The ripening grain

Will fall before the howling wind tonight.

Of all we sow how little do we reap !





Yi Kyoo Bo (1165 1241 A. D.) : The louse and the dog

(Korea Magazine April, 1919 156-7)


             Some one said to me, I saw a great hulk of a fellow last night take a club and beat a poor dog to death. It was pitiful and my heart was sore for it. From now on I have swordn an oath never to eat dog flesh again.

             I said to him, I too, yesterday saw a man take from his body a louse and drop it into the glowing brazier. I felt bad on account of it and so swore an oath that I would never harm the inspect again.

             The guest sat silent for a time and then said, But a louse is an infinitesimal creature and is not worth the notice, while a big beasts dying is diferent, and is a pitiful sight to see. That is why I spoke of it. But your reply by reference to a louse is surely an attempt to ridicule me.

             I said again, Not so, anything that has life, from man down on through the world of animals, cattle, horses, etc., to beetles, bugs and crawling insects all have a desire to live and a dislike to die. In this they are alike. Why is it that you are disturbed only when big things are killed and have no thought for the little ? As to whether it is a dog that dies or a louse it is in reality one and the same. Hearing what you said I replied in a way I thought appropriate. Why do you think I am making fun of you ? If you do not believe what I say try it once on your ten fingers by biting them. Does your thumb alone hurt and not your little finger as well? In one and the same body it makes no difference as to size or to joints and ligatures. They all have life alike and so feel the sharp twinge of pain, how much more things that in themselves have breath and life. Why should one dislike to die and one not mind it ?

             Go now and think well over it and once you regard the snail as you do the ox, and the wren as you do the stately war horse, come to me and well talk religion together.




The Louse and The Dog


He was fond of indulging in the following type of quirk at the expense of vanity or insincerity.


Louse or dog, it's all the same,

Each goes to meet his written end.

Yet why, if the dog dislikes to die,

Does he kill the louse ?


Now go, my friend,

Consider this, and when you learn

To rate the snail and wren as high

As the stately ox or horse, return

And we'll talk religion, you and I.





Yi Kyoo-bo : A Peony Song

(Korea Magazine November 1918 512)

All things are sad because the spring will go, and all unite to bless him on his way. The gossamer web hangs high his awning's shade, and light-shot mists provide the curtain wall. The fallen flowers o'er spread the festal board, like soft-embroidered seats to rest upon. The hanging buds that hold the drops of dew weep tears of sorrow o'er the farewell scene. The 'wine' flower brings us forth new drink to cheer, that butterflies have flavoured over high, but rain-drops fall and soften down its brew. The oriole sings his song to show his love, while swallows skip and do the dancer's part. The god of spring deep drunk falls by the way, and tides the whole procession o'er the night. He asks a maid to share the festal hour, the peach he counts too dissolute to please, the apricot too low and mean, but the sweet maiden peony who steps her forth so young and fair, she'll marry with the god of spring this night. O'ercome with bashful fear her lips refuse to part. The prince enchanted with her love spends three whole days to see her smiles break forth. By night by day the sweet soul of the flowers awaits the hot oncoming of the solstice king. How can we stay the spirit of the morn, who, when he goes, leaves his fair love, so soft of cheek, bedewed with sorrow's tears?




On the last day of the third moon the poet makes a fantasy upon the departure of the god of spring.



The falling petals of the Flower Pavilion

Fashion his perfumed bed.


There, through the last watch of the moon he rests.


Into his sleep a purple wineflower drips

The fragrance of her dew.


Laughing he wakes. Drunken with blossom breath

He wanders through the garden, seeking love.


Whom will he take to share his ecstasy ?

The peach ? Her wanton gifts have wearied him.

The mountain apricot ? Too harsh her tone.


But the silk skirts of the peony shimmer like tinted moths.

Her scarlet petals tremble. She falters forth his name.

Even in the Western Garden he would find no fairer flower.


Swiftly the last watch of the moon goes down

And flames of morning leap from hill to hill.


Retreating steps—  At dawn an empty courtyard,

Departing echoes of his cavalcade.

Peony petals fall in the Flower Pavilion.

There is a sound of tears.




Yi Kyu Bo: A pinetree picture screen

(Gale 198)


Who was it built his house beside the pines

And saw their tufted tops against the sky

With all his powers of vision squarely set ?

Through days and months and years, his soul was lost,

The world of pines became his second sight

That overflowed ; then quivering needle tips

And waving breaths he vomited in bloom

Upon the six folds of this painted screen.

Elsewise how could an inch of weasel-tail

Have wrought so vast a scene of deathless wonder ?

How dark the background hills, deep the far shore !

Black in the darkness, shining serpent forms

Wriggle seawards. The tide has swung away

And left behind great monsters of the deep :

Whales, stripped of their flesh, stand in bony forms,

Lean against cliffs and hang the valleys oer ;

Their pillowed heads are close against the sky.

In openings of the scene I catch a view

Of eyes and mouths, odd faces, peering through.

On misty days when winds awake,

I doubt not dragon wails and calls will come

From out this shadow screen. Throughout the day

I sit with chin in hand and gaze my fill :

To think that ink could work so great a wonder,

Or human hand be found the brush to swing.


The Pine Tree Picture Screen


He built this hermit house amid the pines

And here he lived his life, alone with trees.

Each breath he drew was fragrant with their breath.

He understood their speech. Their silences

Brought him the wisdom that the sages sought.

His ears were opened to the sound that dwells

Beyond the rim of silence.


  Thus he heard

Music which has no voice for lesser men.

His eyes perceived forms beyond creature forms.


Day after day I sit and gaze until,

Drunken with beauty, wonder seizes me

That ink and brush could ever bring such life,

Repeating through ten thousand silences,

The hidden things this master learned from trees.


How dark these hills! How dim that lonely shore

Where serpents slowly move towards the tide

That, swinging back, has left them stripped and bare.

Terrible monsters rest their bony forms

Against the crags, their heads against the sky,

Mysterious faces flicker through the trees

As daylight changes in this silent room

And night brings shadows to the pictured hills.

Among those awful rocks a dragon wails,

Will he come forth, with moonlight, from the trees ?





Yi Kyu Bo: His reflection in the water 

(Gale 197)


Along the edge I walk and gaze into the water;

My windy image dances to my eyes,

My form vibrates in a hundred odd contortions.

I think of Su Tung-po and how he saw

Deep in the Ying-shui Pool, a hundred beards,

Two hundred eyebrows quivering clear.


His Shadow in The Water


Walking beside the river

I watch my shadow dance

From ripple to ripple in wild contortionings.

I think of So Tongpa by the Yungsoo Pool.

What did he see ?

Only a windblown shadow ?

Two hundred eyebrows and one hundred beards ?


Or did he gaze until, beneath his shadow,

He found the wisdom I am always seeking ?




Yi Kyu Bo: Looking into the Well 

(Gale 197)


For long I have not looked into a glass,

And what Im like, Im scarcely free to say.

But now by chance I gaze into this well

And seem to catch a face Ive seen before.

Looking Into The Well


Living alone, who cares to use a mirror ?

I had forgotten how my face was fashioned.

Now, gazing in the well, I heave a sign

For one half recognised –

 Can this be I ?




U Tak

  (Gale 204)


I spent some years in pleasure trips down south,

Mid hills and streams too wonderful to tell.

Bright grows the grass down to the ferrys edge,

And green the willows on the standing shore.

The breeze tiptoes it oer the shining stream

And round the wall hang wreaths of ivy hue.

The rain sweeps by and joyous workers sing ;

Dim in the distance comes the woodmans raft.


Remembering The South


One year I spent there in my distant youth.

Now, growing old, my faltering brush recalls

The brimming wells and forests of the south;

The green mist of the willow tree that falls

On mirror pools where feathered grasses wave

Above the shallow river's yellow sand,

And still white clouds the smooth blue water pave

With blocks of marble made in fairyland.


Soft is the southern rain, a silver wing

Brushing the ivy on a painted wall.

Softly the voices in the rice field sing,

Till from the dusk brocaded curtains fall

To part before a moon of ivory.

Along the river like a shadow craft,

Made from the green mist of a willow tree,

Drifts slowly to the shore a woodman's raft.





Yi Chehyŏn : Chinas Snow

  (Gale 208)


The wild north wind rolls up the trembling earth,

And flings its shadows over hill and river.

In the bosom of the clouds is heaped up snow

That gives the traveller anxious thought. All heaven

And earth are blotted out in whirlwinds of confusion ;

The ground is robed in glistening white,

A new and fresh creation. First I thought

It was the Milky Way had broken loose

And fallen earthward, or that the hilltops,

Struck by the storm, were down upon us.

The angels of the sky, robed in rainbow garb,

Fluttered around like phoenix birds,

Fairies of the deep flashed forth dragon scales.

My horses hoofs slip as he steps in fear ;

He moves not though I let him feel the whip.

My robe takes on a hunded pounds of weight,

While I, inside it, think of Meng Hsiang-yang,

Of how he rode a donkey through the snow

And thought out verses to relieve his hunger.

How very kind the master of the inn,

Who dips a cup of wine to cheer me !

I take my seat beside the cat

That sleeps upon the softly heated floor.

Have you seen Chu-saengs picture of the snow,

How on one sheet he piles its vast creation ?

The willows by the river-bank are weighted down

Where crow-birds used to light. The little inn

Has closed its doors, no breath of life appears.

A guest is starting off upon his cart

Into the wilderness ; official duties

Make him pull his bridle-rein and twist

His horses nose. How happy is his lot

Who draws his quilt around his ears

And floats off into common country dreams,

To let the world of heat and cold

Drive forward as it pleases.

I too behold the scene that Chu-saeng pictured,

And neer forget the meaning of his pen.

If some day we should meet, Chu-saeng and I,

Ill clasp his hand and talk with him

About the landscapes of the snow.


China's Snow


Wind and snow, sweeping across the moorland,

Fling their ghost shadows over hill and river.

Folded in those far clouds the heaped snow waits.

 "How soon to fall ?" we ask in anxious thought,

 "Where lies the inn beyond this blinding gale ?"


All round me now the ground is smooth and white

As though the Silver River earthward streamed

In glittering cascades, or as though the hills,

Crushed by the storm, had fallen on the field.

How many colors whirling flakes reveal !

The fitful sun turns them to phoenix birds.

My pony slips upon the icy road.

My woollen robe grows heavy with the snow.

Huddled inside my cloak I strive to think

Of Yang-yang on his donkey in the storm.

Lost in these mountains, Iacking any food,

He fed rich verses to his hungry stomach


( Joan Grigsby divides this poem into 2)

Resting at The Inn After Riding Through The Snow


Here in the inn, a glass of wine to warm me,

Safe with the cat upon the heated floor,

Warmth grows from bone to bone. My mind grows mellow.


I think of Cho-sang's picture of the snow.

On one small scroll he heaps such white enchantment

As I have seen today.

There willow branches

Are weighted down. The inn has closed its door.

One guest is starting off on his small cart,

A proud official shivering in the snow

Doubtless he envies many a lesser man

Who draws a warm quilt high round freezing ears

And, in the comfort of a heated floor,

Drifts through the day with common country dreams.


 I, having seen such snow as Cho-sang painted,

 Look forward to exchanging verses with him.




Yi Chono: the hills behind Seoul

  (Gale 212)


Behold these shafts three-sparred against the sky,

Their lights and shades like clouds piled mountain-deep.

I gaze straight up where stand the armèd peaks,

I look across at lotus flowers between.

For long I studied in a temple there,

But two years stayed beside the River Hsn.

Who tells me mountains do not have a soul ?

Today we meet, and tears are in our eyes.


The Three Horned Peaks


From the door of my house I count three mountain peaks.

The long road thither is the road of my desire.

Often at dusk their voices call my name

And love flows down to me from those far heights.

Often I cannot see them, for their form

Is veiled in mist and I am almost blind.


Yet the Lotus on their summit—that I always see.


(This poem seems to have the same source)

From The Valley


Above the valley rocky hills arise.

Dawn after dawn they strive to pierce the skies,

Seeking for some lost face; through countless years

They tear the clouds and toss them to the sea—

These are their tears.




Chin Hwa : To Hwa (Peach Garden)

(Gale 100)


The tangled grass with thorny tips points me

Off to the east amid the smoky blue,

Where fairy flowers encircle all the world.

This is the place where refuge found its hold

Against the rough compulsion of Chin-shih.

The fairies choisest garden is its name,

Fresh limpid streams enclose it round and round.

Its land is rich, its waters sweet and clear ;

Red fluffy dogs wake to its day

And bark when clouds go by.

The blooming flowers, kissed by the passing breeze,

Drop, one by one, upon the grassy sward.

We planted peaches out beyond the road

To throw men off and keep the world away.

We talk of things that happened ere the state

Was burned and all its sacred books ;

We watch the grass and trees to tell

How time goes by—the seasons of the year ;

We laugh as with our children we forget

The past and think of days to come.

Sometimes a fisher wanders in

And sees our joy, and goes to call his kind,

But later finds the way confused

And, hopeless, never sees our world again.



The Peach Garden


Wild peach trees are the walls. The frail sweet sound

Of tossing petals shuts the world away.

Streams that reflect the sunrise flash their light

Across the dawn. Stars amid blossom trees

Are all the lanterns midnight ever knows.


Dogs bark at flaring clouds and chase the wind.

Men walk together there and sing the songs

We sang before our sacred books were burned.

They only count the passing of the clouds,

The changing of the season on the grass,

The falling petal and unfolding leaf.

They seek no further joy and know not tears.


Sometimes one comes from far, a wanderer

Through tangled grass and thorny wilderness

To taste the golden peaches. All too soon

The path is lost.

Recaptured by the world,


Forever after such a wanderer strays

Through market place and courtyard all alone,

Seeking an unattainable desire,

Scanning in vain the smoky eastern sky

Where flowers of heaven bloom beyond the world.





Chin Wha (Final section of To-hwa, not in the History)

(Korea Magazine April 1918  156)

Have you not heard of Kang-nam with its bamboo gates and hedges wreathed in flowers, its silver streams that ceaseless flow beneath the moon, its quiet groves where chirp the little birds? But even there the world finds life a trial and labout toils and food is spare. The agents of the state with bamboo thongs beat hard upon the door and ask that tax be paid. If these did not exist the whole wide world might be a garden fair.
May this my song be sweet, forget it not but write it out in every record of the state, and let your children and your children's children see and hear.

In Kang-Nam


 Many inhabitants of To-wun were natives of Kang-nam. The following is a species of catch song which Chin Wha puts into the mouth of an old man of the Peach Garden. He is telling of the days of his youth "before King Chin si's harsh reign."


In far Kang-nam a thousand gardens bloom

With red hibiscus and pomegranate flowers.

Like stars embroidered on a silken loom

The jasmine blossoms fall in perfumed showers

Over the shining gardens of Kang-nam.


And I remember gateways of bamboo,

Yellow as mountain honey. Wise men said

The pigeons loved such gates. They always flew

More slowly there, with restful wings outspread

Above the yellow gateways of Kang-nam.


Yet even in Kang-nam, the taxes grow

A little heavier with the passing years.

Along each street the tax collectors go

Beating the doors with thongs, collectingtears

And spittle from the merchants of Kang-nam.


How beautiful a place Kang-nam would be

If taxes were not there to trouble men !

In fact the thought has often come to me

That all the world might be a garden then,

Lovely as any garden in Kang-nam !




Seventh Night of the Seventh Moon
(Korea Magazine August 1918 356)


The Milky Way is regarded as the great river of the sky, and when the 7th night of the 7th moon returns, the crows and magpies join forces with their fluttering wings to form a bridge across which the Herdsman makes his way to the Maiden, who has left her shuttle and comes to meet her lover. But it is only for the night, for when morning comes they must bid farewell and hie them back to their world of separation.
  The fairy of the Moon, Hang-a, (
) who lives in perpetual widowhood and has an evil mind, is jealous of this joy and so makes clouds to rise, and hides the favor of the moon. She sleeps beneath the cassia tree and guards the Wide-cold Palace (Hwang-han Chun) with its curtained walls.
  The dragon is the winged horse of the sky, and on his back the lovers ride up the Milky Way. Old Hang-a sprays his back and makes it slippery so that the man and maiden like Hille of the golden fleece may find it hard to keep their hold.


Im Pang : description of the fairy land

   (Gale 101)


Her world seemed filled with golden palaces and surrounded with a halo of light. Peopled it was with happy souls, some riding on cranes, some on the phoenix, some on the unicorn. Some were sitting on the clouds, some sailing by on the wind, some walking on air, some gliding gently up the stream, some descending from above, some moving west, some east, some gathering in groups. Flutes and harps sounded sweetly. So many and so startling were the things seen there that I could never tell the tale of them.


(Joan Grigsby attributes her poem (which seems to be a combination of elements from these two) to Chin Wha, probably because the text by Im Pang follows directly after Chin Whas Peach Garden poem (quoted above) in Gales History. Br Anthony)

The Palace of The Moon   Chin Wha.


A windblown mist goes floating down the sky

And high above the forest swings the moon.

Between white clouds the Silver River flows,

Lapping soft ripples to the crystal doors

Which screen the Wide-Cool Palace from the world.


My spirit listens and my yearning eyes

Strain to discover things they may not see.


Go forth, my soul, and learn the fluted songs

Of those who pipe across the midnight sky,

Who ride from cloud to cloud on phoenix wings

And revel in the Palace of the Moon.

The gems that tinkle in their flowing robes

Are dewdrops shot with light from falling stars.

Ten thousand years ago they drank the wine

Of youth. It made them drunk with too much joy

And, being drunken, they forgot to die.


What are they singing ? O that I might hear

One fluted note or catch one perfumed breath !

They toss their flowers across the bridge that spans

The Silver Stream. They light the Herdsman's path.


Can I not gather even one lost bloom,

One pale green gem torn from a silken robe ?




Yi Saik (1328-1395 A.D.):  The offer of the Fairy

   (Korea Magazine April 1918 156)

A fairy comes to sell me herbs, and hangs his gourd before my market square. He points me to the Pong-nai Hills that lie off in the misty east. "If you could only quench those greedy fires," said he, "you'd be a champion knight above the dragon. I'll teach you from my book the Chung-ok-kyul and give you of the fairy's 'moonlight gem,' and then the lusts of earth and empty show you'll leave long miles behind, and sing us songs of loftiest cheer. You'll climb the early heights of T'ai-san and behold the round disk of the sea. You will bend down and read the footprints of the past, and gaze upon the markings of the land. You'll know that all things pass as in a dream; that victory and defeat are but the squares upon the checkerboard. The sun and moon are wheels that run so fast, but you'll not fear how time may go. So far above the world you'll be of human thought and human trife. The changeless pine upon the river brink are you, while worldly men are but the reeds that fade. God holds creation in his mighty grasp, none but the fairy can escape his hold. If you but once share in this magic draught, you'll ride the crane and sail the cloud-lit sky."

(From Translator's Note) Yi Saik was a Confucianist of the most orthodox type, and yet he deals frequently, as in this lett, with the thoughts and teachings of the fairy (Taosim).
Pong-nai as mentioned here is the fables land of the East, where beautiful and sinless immortals are said to dwell . . . The Chung-ok-kyul of Book of Blue Jade is one of the sacred writings of the fairy or genii that tells how immortality may be won, so the 'moonlight gem" is another name for theor elixir of life.

The Book of Blue Jade


Though an orthodox Confucian, his finest poems deal with the teachings of Taoism. The following example illustrates the Korean attitude towards the world of immortals "beyond the Pong-nai Hills."


Across the dusty market place One came

With mountain herbs to sell and gourds of wine.

He raised his hand toward the Pong-nai Hills

And sang to me

"Why do you linger here ?

 Why do you tend the fires of greed for gain ?

 Quench them forever and set forth with me.

 Shall I not teach you from the Blue Jade Book ?  1)

 Drink but one goblet of the Moonlight Gem   2)

 And, in the perfumed vapor of such wine,

 This earth will vanish like a lustful dream.

 Then you will climb the dawn heights of Taisan

 Until the ocean seems a rounded disc

 Far, far below. Your eyes will learn to read

 Footprints of days that now you think are lost.

 Then you will learn that nothig comes or goes

 Excepting dreams which vanish into dreams.

 You will be as the changeless pine that stands

 Untouched by time upon the river brink.


 But they who linger in the market place

 Are but as reeds that fade when summer goes."



1)  The " Chung-ok-kyul," or Book of Blue Jade, contained the secret of immortality.

2)  Moonlight Gem was an elixir of life.





Kim Koo-Yong (1338-1384 A.D.)

To a friend who had become a Buddhist

(Korea Magazine February 1919, 56-7)


Twas hard to bide an empty name and station

Unblessed you gave them up and turned you home ;

But even there lifes worries found and dogged you

And forced your soul to make escape and flee,

To cut your hair and join the Buddhist world

And give your chastened heart and soul to God.

Your many friends admire the sainted way

The King himself bends low to do its will.

His Majesty has given an almoners bowl,

And left you, with your rank and high estate.

Your footprints now will leave the dusty earth

Behold your form lost in the clouds and hills.

The bamboo grove emits its fragrant breath,

The moons soft bow looks through the glimmering pines.

With staff in hand you mount the ascending way,

Or rest your steps beside the babbling brook.

Enough, my lord, thus great I see you go.

While my belittlements beset my soul.

When shall I cut me free from transient things

And pass beyond the world of sight to see ?


To a Dead Buddhist Friend



You have gone far away

Beyond the clouded peaks we sought to climb.

We find no footprints on the dusty road

To tell if east or west our master went.


You have gone far away.

The bamboo grove sings in the silver dusk

The songs you sang. The new moon's shining bow

Looks through the pine grove, seeking you in vain.


You have gone far away.

With steady staff you climbed the upward road.

Beside one stream you paused to rest awhile.

Then blinding mists swept down and you were gone.


When shall I follow you ?

Not till I turn my lingering glance away

From bamboo thicket and from sickle moon

And lose myself among the formless clouds.





Yi  Yi Tal-Ch'oong (d. 1385) : The Neglected Wife
(Korea Magazine January 1918  12)

I once gave you a folding fan, and you gave one most dear to me; but now your heart is changed and all your love has turned a thousand times away. No further joy have I, but thin and worn I think the long nights through. And yet, though I am cast aside I do not blame you, for your new wife has so many graces, dear. But think, how long does outward beauty last? It flies, yes, swifter that the arrow's shaft. Can you not see that she that blooms a flower today will yet regard you through a twisted wrinkled face?


The Neglected Wife


One moon of joy I knew,

And in the waning radiance of that moon

I gave you a folding fan.


Your love was lighter than the fragrant wind

Stirred by these sticks of carven sandalwood.


The moon sank down behind the city wall.

How bitter was the wine we drank at dawn


Soon came the whisper of a silken skirt.

Soon came the perfume of a jasmine flower.

Swiftly for you there rose another moon.


Your new wife's face is like a jasmine petal

And like a fallen petal it will fade

After the moon goes down.


I think you do not know how cruel you are,

But why was your parting gift to me

Another folding fan ?




Pyŏn Kyeryang

  (Gale 234)


So quiet sits this hamlet neath the hill,

With softened shade and furrows freshly turned.

I wander by the stream to seek for simples,

My books I spread out neath the drying sun.

Across the skys blue vault the wild-goose wings,

Amid the moonlit bamboo calls the whippoorwill.

I look toward Seoul, whence endless thoughts arise,

And jot a verse dwon for my friend of friends.

Thoughts in a Country Retreat


Quiet is this village folded below the mountain.

Softly the shadows fall on fresh-turned furrows.

Down by the stream I wander, gathering simples

While my books are spread to dry in the bleaching sun.


Under the sky's deep vault the wild geese wheel.


The blue wing shadow of the mountain darkens.

Across the twilight booms a bell's rich note.


Now through the bamboo thicket moonbeams quiver.


What endless thoughts awaken from the night !

With longing eyes that bridge a thousand miles,

I look toward Seoul, to you—my friend of friends,

And write this little song of fleeting thoughts.




Sung Kan (1427-1456): To my master Kang Heui An

Korea Magazine October 1918  453-4


A poem is a picture with a song,

A picture is a poem, but without the power to sing.

Pictures and poems, from ancient times, have ever been the same.

No shade of difference marks their worth or measure.

What store of wonders dwell within my masters mind.

An artist shall I mark him, or chief among the poets?

When joy inspires his heart he lifts the blunted pen and strikes

And lo, a line of streams flow by and rocks appear.

From these green banks old trees reach down and touch the water.

You surely were the Master Chung No in an age gone by ;

I gaze the live-long day with soul entranced

But colours fade and fairest tints grow dim ;

If rain or smoke but touch them they are gone.

Lets try instead a picture with a song

That enters by the ear and moves the tongue to sing ;

And keeps the spirit fresh and fair through all the weary ages.


To My Master, Kang Heu-In


I gazed all day upon my master's painting.

I read his poems far into the night.

Just before dawn my eyes perceived this truth


 A poem is a picture turned to song.

   A picture is a poem whence the words

 Have taken life and fled into the clouds.

How shall succeeeding ages name my master

Artist or poet ? From the clear, still depths

Of his great mind such sparkling treasures pour

Poems and pictures like the tinted spray

Cascading from a grottoed mountain pool.


Today he lifts his brush. One swift sure stroke,

One breathless gesture, disciplined, austere

Then, from his hand, a sunlit river flows,

Gaunt rocks arise, green banks and acient trees

That sweep the water with their twisted boughs.


Gazing all day on pictures such as these

I think the Master Chong No has returned,

That you, my Iord, were he in days gone by.

A thousand poems sing within my mind.


But colors fade with age. Rich tones grow dull

When touched by rain or smoke of charcoal fires.

It may be that, at last, your fame will live

In poems which are pictures turned to song.

Age cannot dim the fire of jewelled words

Nor steal the scent of breezes that will blow

Down through the weary ages from your soul.




Sang Kun: The Grave of So-koon

   (Korea Magazine May 1917 219)


(In brief: An artist with a grudge painted her as ugly so she was sent by the Emperor to marry a barbarian prince. Crossing the Amur (Black Dragon) River she plunged in. Her tomb on its bank is always green, so called the Verdant Tomb.)

Would you had died within the palace hall,

And not off here in loneliness and woe !


The eyebrows of the butterfly have fallen away,

Your bones lie white and bare.


I pass toward the north hard by your tomb

But rest my horse a while to think of thee ;


The aritst's brush has done the deed of shame,

I weep beneath the silent shining moon.


The Grave of So-Koon


Mo had her painted with defects and irregularities of feature. The Emperor therefore picked her as the one to be sent to the Turk. When he saw how beautiful she was he realised the cruel trick which had been played and was beside himself with rage and grief, but could not break his word. So-Koon had to mount her camel and ride away across the desert with the Turk. She did not go far, however, for when they reached the River of the Black Dragon she plunged into the water and ended her sorrow. A high mound on the bank marks her grave. It is known as the "Verdant Tomb."


Riding towards the north,

Watched through the darkness by the desert stars,

I think of her who, desolate, alone,

Halted her camel here.


Like flowers below the moon

The beauty of all other maidens seemed

To one who looked a moment on her face.


Yet under these cold stars she came to die

Here, where I draw my rein, remembering her.




Sŏng Sammun

 (Gale 243)



̪٤ (ݰθ)



ʫ (ݾ߼)


They beat their drums to hasten life away ;

I turn my head toward the setting sun.

There are no inns within the Yellow Shades :

Where shall I sleep tonight ?


White Banners


The long white banners flutter on the breeze.

Drums roll and boom to speed my life away.

Here, there and everywhere are grinning lips

And mocking eyes.

I watch the sinking sun.

Where shall I rest when all my pain is ended ?

There are no inns within the Yellow Shades—

Where I shall sleep tonight no man can tell.




 Yi Hwang

    (Gale 192)


These hills crowd up, while off the river swings.

My ladder leads me oer the giddy way

Where tinkling streams abound.

Men tell us still of these same Yosan Hills,

For here the master ploughed his simple field,

Just as the moon fills all the waiting sky

So his great soul is with us.

Mere gossamer web that leaves no trace behind

Such was the glory of the world to him.

Who writes his story now?

Doth not his simple life film dim your eyes?


Thinking of Yi Chahyun in The Pyungsan Hills


Head of the Confucian College and the greatest master of his day, he was familiarly known to his followers as Master To-ike. He was one of the wisest counsellors who ever helped to rule Korea. He survived the Moo-o Sa-Wha but many of his best friends were killed and the shadow of this tragedy tinged all his later poetry. The chief inspiration of his life seems to have been found in Yi Chah Yun, the hermit poet of the 12th century. Yi Whang spent years studying this man's works and once made a pilgrimage into the Pyungsan Hills to visit the hermit's cave.


Grey mountains crowd against the evening sky.

The river swings away toward the west.

I follow on and on, with beating heart,

For every step of this steep road he trod.

Here, in the Pyungsan Hills the master dwelt,

Ploughing alone the field that gave him food.


Dreaming of such a sage the ages fade.

just as that rising moon fills all the sky

With radiant light, so his great soul remains

Forever radiant and forever one

With mountain peaks that only seek the clouds.

They loved him. Still they echo his great thought,

Still hold the boundless peace that is his soul.

Their silence was the splendor that he knew.

For him the wrangling glory of our world

Was but a cobweb swept before the eyes.




Chŏng Yŏchang

  (Gale 244)


The rush-rods flutter in the flying wind,

So light, so lithe, so free ;

Tis May and yet the barleys rolling ripe

As autumn fields should be.

I view the hills of Chiri, height on height,

Then turn my boat and lose me in the night.


Meditation in The Chiri Hills


The rush rods flutter in the dying wind.

They whisper softly to me through the dusk.

Through them I watch the setting sun go down.

Above them now the rising yellow moon

Pours her soft light. Between their pointed spears

She weaves a silver veil of river mist.


The rush rods flutter gently by my door.

The ripening barley whispers.  All is peace.

The hills of Chiri hide me from the world.

Between them, slowly floating down the stream,

Alone I row my boat into the night.





Toegye Yi Hwang

  (Gale 252)


I do forget so soon,

And have to read again my scattered books ;

Now I gather and place them on the shelf.

The sun is late and swings off to the west,

The stream that ripples by reflects the shade.

I take my staff and step into the court ;

I look out at the clouds that touch he hill.

The rising smoke proclaims the evening meal ;

A clear cool breath floats freshly oer the plain.

The reaping time is near and harvest joy,

And all the hands who beat the grain are glad.

At even the crow flies by on easy wing,

The crane stands out clear-cut against the shade.

I, I alone, am wrung with anxious thought

That fills my soul, alas, too deep for tears.

No place is there where I can tell my grief,

I take my harp and wake the silent night.

Meditation on a Summer Evening


I do forget so soon. Even tonight

My misted mind will turn and grope again,

Seeking some truth which sparkled for an hour

And then was lost. I gather up my books

And place them, one by one, within the chest.

The sun goes down. Long shadows dim my room

And shadows bridge the waters of the stream

That ripples softly past the outer court.


Sun-warmed and fragrant pine trees scent the breeze.

Pale clouds are one with distant mountain peaks.

Pungent the scent of smoke that slowly curls

Like pale blue feathers from the evening fire.

Heavy the millet hangs with ripening grain.

Soon will come reaping days and harvest joy

With sound of beating flails and singing Iads.


Slowly between the trees, on lazy wing,

The gaunt crow homeward flies. The lovely crane

Stands out, a clear cut picture, by the stream.


How beautiful, how very kind this hour

Of gentle dusk and slowly deepening dreams

Only, for me, the silences are filled

With broken memories. And there are tears

Which must not fall. They hover like a cloud

Always between me and the setting sun.

Yet I am silent. Words were never made

To tell such grief as mine. I touch my harp.

String after string calls through the silent night.




Yi Chŏnggu

  (Gale 270)


The little inn upon the rivers brink

Waves bright its willows oer the passing stream ;

While soft the springtime breaks the morning blue,

And evening drops behind the mountain wall.

The sparkling water tells the time of year,

Though weary miles mark lines across my face.

The wandering thought finds nothing worth the while

And lets its rhymes drop from a pointless pen.


While Traveling as Envoy to China


PeacefuI this inn upon the river's brink

Where pale green willows trail above the reeds.

Here clouds of blossom break the soft blue haze

Of morning skies.

And here the evening falls,

A silken banner from the mountain waIIs.


Long days of travel line my weary face.

Yet have I known no hour of calmer rest

Than this.

My thoughts are like the willow boughs,

Waved to and fro upon the rippling stream.

My rhymes are ripples, breaking from a dream.




Sung Hyun : About Han Chong-Yoo

(Korea Magazine February 1917 54-55)


He retired from office and went to live on an island in the Han River. He leaves these verses:


The light rain falls across the river plain,

Beyond the reeds I hear the flutes clear note ;

With all the skill His Kingship needs to rule

I hold my rod and aim to catch a fish.

With black head-band and short coarse hempen coat,

I sit while soft the breezes kiss my chin ;

My late return beholds the moons up-swing,

As blossoms scent my old dry pilgrim-staff.




A Fishing Song


Beyond the fact that he held high office at court no information is forthcoming as to the life of Han Chong- Yoo, and his literary work seems to have been but slight. The following song, however, gives such a good picture of a staid official off duty that it has seemed worth while to include it.


The light showers whisper on the river plain.

Beyond the reeds I hear a fluted note

From One who plays alone in falling rain.


Grave, as before my king on council day,

In black head band and yellow hempen coat,

I watch for fish that do not come my way.


Who cares! The soft spring breezes touch my cheek.

They bring me perfume from ten thousand flowers.

The sun goes down behind the mountain peak.


The moon, who spreads her wing on upward flight,

Bids me turn homeward. Sweet are wasted hours!

The flute's note follows through the gathering night.




Hyang-nang : suicide note

(Korea Magazine August 1917 357)


How high the heaven above,

How broad the earth and sea,

So broad and high, the earth and sky,

Yet not a place for me.

Beneath the pool there will be room

And minnow fish will build my tomb.


A Flower of The Hills


High, high is the sky above my head.

Broad, broad is the earth; deep blue the se..

In all the meadows happy wild flowers spread

Their tinted smiles. Yet not one smile for me.


Beneath this rocky pool there will be rest.

Among the waterweeds there will be room

Even for me. Above my weary breast

The little silver fish will build my tomb.




Anon: On the gate in honour of Hyang-nang

 (Korea Magazine August 1917 357)


The soft sweet breezes of the spring,

Blow oer her pair of lonely shoes.

Her soul that has returned to God

Lives in her name for ever more.

Such sorrows not a hundred years

Can bear the loneliness away.

With dry choked throats we sing her praise.

             The sweet sad flower.



Inscribed on The Gate of Honor to Hyang-Nang


Only the gentle breezes of the spring

Caress her little pair of lonely shoes.

Where are you now, O sad and fragrant flower?

It is too late to a song for you.

Not all the singing of a hundred years

Could bear away the loneliness you knew

In one uncounted hour of falling tears!






  (Gale 266)


The north wind blows the rain across my way,

And mists hang seep upon the city wall ;

The sea roars in upon the evening tide,

And all the hills are wrapped in anxious gloom.

My homesick heart hangs by each blade of grass,

And in my dreams I wander by the shore.

I know not how my state goes, up or down,

And passing boats speak not nor give a sign


Regret in Exile


The north wind blows the dreary autumn rain

From street to street. Around the city wall

A cold mist hangs. It drips from stone to stone,

Echoing tears.


I hear the tide roar up the lonely sand

Where tall green reeds are drenched with rain and spray.

Thinking of these, awhile, my homesick heart

Forgets her fears.


Dreaming, I wander up and down the shore,

But not one passing vessel speaks to me

And not one echo from the silent hills

Answers my call.


I know not if my State goes up or down.

Nothing remains for me but wind and waves

Or blinding mists that, like my weary tears,

Drip from the wall.




Queen Inmok

  (Gale 267)


The weary ox, grown old through years of labour,

With neck sore chafed and skin worn through in holes,

Nods off to sleep. His ploughing now is done,

And harrow days are over, spring rains fall :

Why does his master still lay on the goad

And cause him pain ?


The Weary Ox


The weary ox, grown old with years of toil,

Nods slowly off to sleep.

Poor, broken beast, chafed neck, torn skin, gaunt bones

And hooves worn down on miles of scorching stones!

Ploughing is over. Now the spring rains fall.

Why do they keep him tethered by this wall?

Why does his master strike him with the goad?

He could not carry one more brushwood load.

His eyes are frightened and his limbs recoil.

Helpless—for him I weep.

Who first taught men to use the cruel goad?



Hong Yangho

  (Gale 288)


Since you are dead

Twice have the hills been brown and sere ;

The bitter frosts have veiled our eyes,

And saddened winds have chilled my soul.

But whats my soul, for I am dead,

And strength has left me bare ;

The days and months go fleeting by,

Earth and heaven stretch to infinity.


Your little lad has learned to speak,

But he knows only mother and grandpapa;

So busy is he at his letters,

Yet I cannot teach him the word for father.

When he grows up and asks me what it means,

What shall I tell him?

His little voice sounds more and more like yours ;

This ought to be a comfort to me.


Your grave rests on the hillside

That overlooks the stream ;

Twas here you begged me, years ago, to build.

The house still stands, but you are absent.

Alone in my old age am I ;

You doubtless have a place of rest.

But my thoughts of you are ever restless.


Now I am off on a thousand-mile journey

Where the blue sea murmurs.

Your brothers have come to say farewell

And all the neighbours ;

Drink and refreshments abound,

But I have no heart to taste.

I long to go to your grave and weep,

But fear lest I make your soul feel sad.


I was so happy when you were young, and loved

To write the character and compose verses.

What I dictated you wrote

And marked my couplets for me ;

But now that you are dead,

I have no heart for verse.

I compose this as a last farewell,

But who is there to write it down?


To My Son


Twice from the dead fields have the wild geese flown.

Twice from the hills the withered leaves have blown.

And twice ten thousand tears I shed for you.


Cold is the frost that on the forest lies,

And cold the wind which through the courtyard cries,

But colder far the home bereft of you.


The little Iad whose eyes are like your own,

Whose voice seems but an echo of your tone,

How strange—he knows not what he lost with you!


This is your house—gay eaves and carven stone

I built for you. Now, ageing and alone,

I dwell with ghosts and know not which is you. 1)


Your grave is on the hill above the stream,

And there you rest, passing from dream to dream,

But I rest not, who only dream of you.




Hong Yangho : Autumn

  (Gale 287)


My horse treads fallen twigs along the way,

And step by step awakes the sounds of autumn.

Wind whips the leaves and whirls them oer the hill,

And, roaring, calls the echoes from the clouds.




My horse crushes the dry sticks and dead leaves.

At every step he awakens the voice of autumn.

Wild winds sweep by with a sound like the tattered skirt

Of an aged dancer.




Hong Yangho : Our meeting

  (Gale 287)


Athwart the bridge the shadow of a priest—

I ask him, Whither off among the hills?

Slow the soft-stepping staff makes no reply,

But lifted, points me to the clouds.

Meeting a Priest on a Mountain Bridge


On a bridge below the Water Gate

I saw his shadow lying aslant the stones.

Amidst a thousand flickering leaves

How still he seemed!

I asked him what he sought among these mountains.

He answered not but pointed with his lifted staff

To formless clouds beyond the farthest peak.




1)  A comparison between an original poem by Yi Kyubo and the version by Joan Grigsby,

by Professor Gari Ledyard (Columbia University, New York).




Lament for a Little Daughter

Yi Kyubo (1168-1241)


On the Death of His Little Daughter

Joan Grigsby (1891-1937)


My little girl, her face like snow—

Its hard to express how clever she was.

At two she could already talk,

Her tongue as well turned as a parrots

My little girl, with face like shining snow—

How empty now the silent courtyards seem

Where once her hay skirt flashed among the flowers!


ڦ ??

Ҵ ۰

At three she was modest before adults

In play she never went beyond the gate.

This year she had just turned four.

How good she was at learning, at sewing!

At two she talked like some wise parrots tongue.

At three, retiring, sweet and very shy

She hid herself behind the outer gate.


This year, being four, her tiny hand should hold

Her first small brush. I would have taught her well

But she is gone. Only the brush remains.



How was it that she was taken away,

Suddenly, like a scared snowflake damped out?

Until a spring fledgling falls unformed to the ground

One doesnt realize that the pigeons nest was crude.

My litte pidgeon of this troubled nest,

Why did you fly away so very soon?

A flash of light—you came.  A flash—you fled




Գ ΰ

Having studied the Dao, I can now give in a little.

But my wifes screams, when will they ever stop?


I, who have learned to watch the passing days

Can count them calmly still.  But who shall dry

A mothers falling tears?



I look into the paddies here in the countryside

And I see the first sprouts of grain

But wind and hail can come at the wrong time,

Pounding the soil till all is broken and washed away.


Across the fields

A raging storm draws near.


The ripening grain

Will fall before the howling wind tonight.

Of all we sow how little do we reap!





The creator no sooner gives life

Than he cruelly snatches it away.

Whether it will wither or prosper is unpredictable.

In the end, natures aberrations seem but a trick.




Nothing but a phantasm, our coming and going.

Hers are done.  From now, goodbye.






Tongguk Yi Sangguk Chip,  Kwŏn 5, p. 16b

The Orchid Door,  p. 49


Professor Ledyards Commentary


Back in the 80s, when I was still a working professor at Columbia, I became acquainted with Joan Grigsbys The Orchid Door when a casual friend showed me a xerox copy that had been made from the original Kobe edition of 1935. Although he promised that he would get a copy made for me, I never heard from him again, and he has since died. But I had the friends copy overnight, and I quite enjoyed the poetry and the book in general. But one thing particularly caught my eye. When I came upon On the Death of His Little Daughter, I immediately recalled stumbling upon the poem by Yi Kyubo on the same topic while I was researching that writers social acquaintances among Koryŏ monks in the Kaesŏng area—a project best pursued in the poetry section of his munjip. I copied out Grigsbys translation, and later compared the two poems carefully. While I had thought from my literarily suspect eye that Grigsbys poetry was very good and made a pleasant evenings reading, when I compared it with Yi Kyubos poem, I found that it was a highly imperfect translation.



             Even without having the texts at hand, an experienced reader of Chinese can recognize almost immediately that Joan Grigsby is not translating. Many of her poems look very good to me, too good one might say, to be translations from Chinese. Her version of Yi Kyubos Lament for a Little Daughter ҳ is such a poem.

             No claims are made for the sketchy prose of my translation of Yi Kyubos poem apart from an assurance that each line is a reasonable expression of the corresponding line in his original. The poem is a free narrative variation of the regulated verse form, with the five-syllable option. While the usual pattern will be for the even-numbered lines to rime (often with the first line of the first verse setting the rhyme), this poem is particularly unusual in that all the lines rhyme, odd and even alike. In this poem, every rhyming word ends in Sino-Korean in , mostly in –ŏl or –yŏl, but some in –al, –ol, –ul and –ŭl. I give this information only to detail  the type of Chinese poetry were dealing with, not by any means to insist that every translated line should match a Chinese line or, heaven forbid, that the translated lines must rhyme.

             By comparing the two poems, we can see easily enough how Joan Grigsby worked. She picks and chooses from among Yi Kyubos words and lines, taking what seems to her to be the stuff of a poem. She completely ignores many of his lines and throws in many of her own, inventing silent courtyards, flowers and flashing skirts, writing brushes in tiny hands, falling tears, and throwing in a clichéd maxim (can it be anything else?) at the end. The material she keeps is freely rearranged, reconstrued and given new context as she sees fit.

She misses the cultural context of such things as crying at a time of death: it is not the wetness of the mothers tears that is the concern, but the ear-splitting screach of the wailing that customarily goes on for days and months that the poet has on his mind. Again, Grigsby speaks of ripening grain, of which there is none in the original; we have rather first sprouts. Its not just a mistranslation, since she shifts the seasonal context from spring to late summer, a matter of importance to any poet, especially an East Asian one. The seasonal context figures again in the understanding of the time of death. In East Asia one adds a year to age on lunar New Years day, and its clear from Yi Kyubos wording that his child died not too long after that event. And its worth keeping in the back of the translators mind that age four is likely to be closer to age three in a westerners sensibility, and that this changes the significance of her precociousness. Her death being as sudden as a snowflake damped out is not just a casual metaphor but also another seasonal signal that its still cold and dreary. Moving on to early summer in the lunar calendar, we know were there when the sprouts are in the fields, and we know that the family has been mourning for at least two or three months. When the rains pound the crops we know the changma has come, and that Yi Kyubo has still not finished his mourning, or perhaps yet started his poem. But Grigsby still has the mother wailing in late summer, a month or two later. In leaving the poets last verse and the envoi completely unrepresented, the translator misses a cardinal point. The poem was an expression of the poets sorrow, but also a way to deal with it. In the last line it is clear he wants to move on with his life. How commonplace, how irrelevant, how unfair is her line, Of all we sow how little do we reap!

             It is possible that James Gales translations are responsible for some of this, but from my experience with his work I believe his Chinese was better than that. Its hard to believe he would have missed so much. By the way, not all of his papers are in Toronto. Ross King has a list of Gales hanmun translations, and many of them are not there. I think its still a mystery what happened to all of them, but Ross is tenacious, and I hope he can track some of the missing ones down.