Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Clear breeze and bright moon

The cycle of the seasons is celebrated in The Angler’s Calendar (1651), forty songs by the Korean sijo poet Yun Sondo (1587-1671). The spring section begins in early morning with fog on the stream and sunlight illuminating the black hills. The fisherman delights in the cries of cuckoos and the sight of blue willows on the riverbank and peach blossoms floating on the water. These petals remind him of the Chinese story of the Peach Blossom Spring, far away from earthly cares. This theme of joy and escape is maintained to the end of the poem, where winter’s clouds screen the poet from the world and roaring waves drown out its sounds.

Another evocation of spring in The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Korean Poetry is In Praise of Spring by Chong Kugin (1401-1481), translated by Peter M. Lee. Here again, petals on a stream suggest to the poet that he is near the source of the Peach Blossom Spring. He climbs between the pine trees to a hilltop and surveys the landscape of scattered villages, with mist glowing in the sunlight and spring colours covering the fields. Although he is without fame and rank, the poet is happy to have friends in “the clear breeze and bright moon.”

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