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Master of the Month

Master of the Month

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Yi Saek


Yi Saek (1328-1396) was a poet, essayist, Neoconfucian scholar, teacher of princes and advisor to kings in the latter years of the Koryo dynasty, including the final ruler, King Ch’ang [Kongyang](r.1388-1389). During that stormy period, the powerful general Yi Sungae led a successful revolt, eventually assuming power as King T’aejo II (r.1392-1398), the first ruler of the long-lasting Choson (Yi) dynasty (1392-1910). Yi Saek, loyal to the ousted Koryos, was first banished then threatened with execution, and finally offered a position in the new government -- which he refused. His pen name was Mokun (Pastoral Recluse).

Low clouds slip toward the valley
where patches of snow persist.
I’m told that somewhere below,
the sturdy plum trees* are blooming.
Up here alone in the sunset,
I ponder which path to follow.

*The family name Yi means “plum tree.”]

All Rights 1996 by Larry Gross.
Please do not reprint without written permission.

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