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Sijo Masters in Translation

Korean Sijo by An Minyŏng

(1816 - 1895)

An Minyong was a Korean poet and minstrel who flourished during the 19th century reigns of three kings. His pen name was Chu-ong (Old Man of Chou). He has been called the last of the great classical poets. In 1876, he and another highly respected poet and minstrel, Pak Hyogwan, completed their illustrious collection Kagok Wollyu (Source Book of Korean Songs), still referred to as one of the Three Great Anthologies of Korean literature. It contains hundreds of sijo and 17 kasa lyrics arranged in accordance with their usual musical accompaniment. A large number of his poems have been discovered in recent years, but many of them still await scholarly investigation.

His most widely known sijo are contained in his Maehwa-sa (Songs of the Plum Blossom), a cycle of eight verses he composed while on a mountain retreat in 1871 at the home of his friend and tutor, Pak Hyogwan. Though outwardly addressed to the blossoming of plum trees, the verses seem heavy-laden with sexual innuendo, for An was a great admirer of women.

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I didn't foresee much promise
in your young and scrawny limbs;
but you have more than satisfied
with your first handful of blossoms.
When I come to gaze by candlelight,
your fragrance fills the air.

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All Rights Copyright 2005 by Larry Gross. Please do not reprint without written permission.

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