Thursday, May 11, 2017

Vernon Mooers writes

Seasons of a Fisherman
         (for Yun Son Do)

I have come to Bogil Island to escape 

Have slain and buried my dead horse

        under the persimmon trees

        on the hill above the river. 

I have only my friends now

         the moon and ocean

         the rocks, pines and bamboo. 

I have the seashells on the beach 

to keep me company. 

Small boys pile stones like pagodas 

azuma in her straw hat 

tends the rice fields 

now covered with tender shoots 

and apple blossoms burst 

on mugunghwa covered hills. 

The mountains rise from the sea 

like majestic dragons. 

Waves lick the kim-covered shoreline 

And crash upon the buoys of

           fishing nets. 

 Seyeonjeong ("to wash away the grime of the world") pavilion on Bogildo -- Yun Sondo


  1. Bogil is a rustic island 12 ㎞ off the southwestern coast of South Korea, accessible by ferry from Wando-gun and Haenam-gun in Jeollanam-do province. Its first inhabitants were Neo- Confucian scholars during the Joseon Dynasty, including Yun Sondo, who stopped there on his way to Jejudo and decided to stay; he built and resided in the Buyongdong gardens, which have been well-preserved to this day. Yun was a 17th-century poet whose literary names were Gosan ("Lonely Mountain") and Haeong ("Old Man of the Sea"). Regarded as the nation's greatest writer of sijo, a flexible form of Korean poetry in three lines that averaged 14-16 syllables each, for a total of 44-46 syllables, his most famous composition was "The Fisherman's Calendar" (1651), a cycle of 40 seasonal verses, the longest notable work in the genre. He composed both in Korean and in hanmun (a koreanized form of wenyen, the Chinese literary language). The son of an official of the third rank, he was adopted and educated by his uncle, a childless official of the first rank. In 1612 he passed the licentiate degree but chose not to enter public service. In 1613, during the reign of Gwanghaegun, the Greater Northerners faction under Yi Ich'om seized power, exiled and executed the king's younger but legitimate brother, and suppressed their Lesser Northerner rivals. In 1616 Yun memorialized the throne concerning official corruption under Yi and was forced into exile. In 1618 he began writing sijo. In 1628, after Yi's death, Yun placed first in a higher government examination and took office as tutor to the future king Hyojong, but he was demoted and exiled again in 1635. In 1638 he was once again offered office but declined. After Hyojong took the throne in 1649, Yun was eventually recalled to high office, but the powerful Westerners faction prevented him from assumin and active role in government. He fell ill and retired, only to be elevated the same year to third minister of rites, but his appointment was immediately canceled. He was eventually exiled again in another factional dispute until shortly before his death in 1671. Of his 85 years of life, he spent 14 years in official exile.

  2. Song Of Five Friends

    You ask how many friends I have? Water and stone, bamboo and pine.
    The moon rising over the eastern hill is a joyful comrade.
    Besides these five companions, what other pleasure should I ask?

    I’m told clouds are nice, that is, their color; but often they grow dark.
    I’m told winds are pleasing, that is, their sound, but they fade to silence;
    So I say only water is faithful and neverending.

    Why do flowers fade and die so soon after that glorious bloom?
    Why does green grass curl to yellow after sending its spears so high?
    Could it be that only stone stands strong against the elements?

    Look at this, it isn’t a tree, and it isn‘t a grass either;
    How can it stand so erect when its insides are empty?
    Bamboo, I praise you in all seasons, standing green no matter what

    In summer fragile flowers bloom; in autumn they lose their leaves.
    But Mr. Pine, see how he disdains winter’s frost and snow—
    See him thrust himself to heaven and down to earth’s eternal spring.

    Though you’re small, you glide so high, blessing everyone with light;
    What other flame can beam so brightly in the blackness of our night?
    Moon, you watch but keep silent; isn’t that what a good friend does?

    --Yun Sondo

    An azuma (ajumma) is a married woman or one of marriage age who is neither a young unmarried woman (agassi) or a grandmother (halmoni). It is most often used to refer to any middle-aged or older woman, since referring to an elder by name without a title is not socially acceptable in Korea. Mugunghwa (Hibiscus syriacus), also known as the rose of Sharon, the Syrian ketmia, rose mallow, and St. Joseph's rod, is Korea's national flower. It is native to much of Asia (though not, as Carl Linnaeus thought, to Syria, despite of the name he gave it). Kim is an edible seaweed in the genus Porphyra, called laver in English and nori in Japanese.


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