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Sijo Masters in Translation

Korean Sijo by Kim Tŏngnyŏn

(1567 - 1596)


Kim Tŏngnyŏn was a courageous, young volunteer soldier who raised an army and was appointed a general to repel the Japanese army in the Hideyoshi invasion (1592+). King Sŏnjo named him the "Lord of Patriotism." However, in 1596 he was erroneously accused of treason and was imprisoned until his death at 28. This verse is said to have been written during his imprisonment.

The springtime mountain is on fire;
buds are burning unopened.
Enough water is at hand
to vanquish the headland blaze.
But smokeless embers in my heart
rage beyond all water.



Background:
Kim fought valiantly against the Japanese invasion led by Gen. Hideyoshi in 1592, but in 1596 he was falsely accused of treason and was imprisoned until his death at 28. Reportedly, he wrote this poem while in prison. The fire refers to the Hideyoshi invasion, and the buds to the young men sacrificed in battle.

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All Rights Copyright 2002 by Larry Gross. Please do not reprint without written permission.

Updated 071219

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