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Sijo Masters in Translation

Korean Sijo by Kim Ch'ŏn-taek

(1725 - 1766) Pen name: Namp'a (South Hill)

White clouds mix

White clouds mix with blue mist
as they lower into the valley.
Maple leaves flash in autumn's breeze,
more lovely than springtime's blooms.
Someone in Heaven has painted
these mountains just for me.

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An ibis wings

An ibis wings into sunset;
sky and stream form a single blue.
I launch my small boat and row
toward where the water narrows.
From the far side an old man
in a reed hat asks for a ride.

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I'll take off my coat

I'll take off my coat and tell the boy
to pawn it at the wine shop.
Then I'll gaze at the night sky,
smile at the full moon and inquire:
Hey up there! Is Li Po watching?
What do you think of me now?

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Listen people

Listen people, wherever you are,
please attend to these words:
Will your youth last forever?
Will your white hair turn black again?
Life speeds by like a dream,
why not fill each minute with joy?

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My life is a fruitless thing

My life is a fruitless thing:
I've mastsered neither sword nor pen.
Fifty springs habve cone abd gone,
what do I have to show for them?
Ah, let them go! See all these mountains?
They won't turn me away.

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Once you are dead

Once you are dead, you'll be gone:
No more bright suns will wake you.
No one will come to search you out
in these long pines and green hills.
They'll no longer fill your cup,
enticing you to drink the wine.

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

Updated 071218

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