Silla Dynasty - Joseon Era - Modern Day

First Poet
Ho Nansorhon
(1563-1589 Suicide)

The Poor Girl
by Ho Nansorhon

Surely she does not lack beauty
Nor skills in sewing and weaving.
But she grew up in a poor family
So good matchmakers ignore her.

She never looks cold or hungry,
All day long she weaves by her window.
Only her parents feel sorry for her;
Neighbors would never know of it.

A pair of golden scissors in her hand,
Fingers stiffened by the night's chill.
She cuts a bridal costume for another,
Yet year after year she sleeps alone.


To My Husband In The Kangsa Hall Of Reading
by Ho Nansorhon

Swallows perched in the angled eaves fly in pairs;
Blossoms falling pell mell tumble against silk dresses.
As I sit in the bedchamber gazing as far as I can see,
Feelings of love wound me.

The grass is green South of the River,
But you have not returned.


I think this poem might come as close as possible to her
admitting her husband frequented courtesans.

Song of Ch'ang-kan Town
by Ho Nansorhon

My home was in Ch'ang-kan town;
I used to walk along its streets.
There I plucked beautiful flowers and asked you,
"Am I as beautiful?"

Last night a south wind blew;
The boat's flag pointed to the Yangtze.
I met someone coming from the North,
But I know that you were in Yang-chou.

Lining the narrow street, lots of brothels;
At every gate sumptuous carriages arrive..
An east wind blows and snaps
the willow branch of love.

Riding a fine horse, a man gallops over fallen flowers.



Ho Nansorhon wrote 4 poems to describe
each of the 4 seasons; however,

the poem for Winter is missing,
she probably burned it in a fit of despair.

By Ho Nansorhon

In the courtyard a shower of peach petals piles deep;
Wandering orioles cry out on a magnolia tree near the fence.
Through tasseled silk curtains the spring cold seeps in;
From the censer* a list of burning incense gently curls.
A beautiful girl woken from sleep makes up her face anew;
Fine girdle of fragrant silk, patterned with ducks.
She rolls up a thick blind, revealing the Kingfisher curtain;
Unhurried, she plays the phoenix song on her silver zither.
Where has her Lord gone on his gold engraved saddle?
A friendly parrot chatters at the window, a butterfly sports

in the grasses, then flits along the Garden Path.
Dancing among the flowers, gossamers outside the door,
Sounds of flutes and song from a neighbor's house;
The moon shines on a golden cup of fine wine.
At night she is quite alone and unable to sleep;
At dawn she wakes, tears soaking the shagreen silk.

*censer: one of the many mountains where Immortals were said to dwell.

By Ho Nansorhon

A Sophora* tree shades the ground and outlines of the flowers,
Jade mat and silver bed seem spacious in a pearl mansion.
Sweat forms like beads in the white hemp robe;
A fan of silk gauze stirs the wind, rustling the silk curtain.
By the jade steps the pomegranate in full bloom.
The sun brightens the ornate eaves, and blinds cast oblique shadows.
A swallow in the carved beams all day long leads her nestlings out.

No one is at the garden fence; the bees sound busy.
She tires of embroidering and dozes in the hot afternoon;
Her phoenix hairpin drops, falling on a silk cushion.
On her forehead thin yellow grease, the remains of sleep.
A cuckoo on the wing wakes her from some romantic dream.
Friends from the Southern pond, in a magnolia boat,
Have gathered the lotus flowers and return to the quay.
They row gently, singing the water-chestnut song.
They startle and rouse a pair of white gulls on the water.

*Sophora - a large tree that grows in northern China,
similar to loquat, the yellow flowers are used for dyes,
the timber is also useful for many purposes.

by Ho Nansorhon

Screened by red gauze curtains, the distant lamp burns into night,
Waking from a dream, she finds her silk bedspread half unfilled.
Icy frost arrives suddenly, the orioles chatter in their cages.
Paulownia leaves, blown down by the west wind, cover the steps.
There is no rustle of silken sleeves, dust gathers in the Jade Court.

The empty houses are cold, still, without sound, their leaves fall
And lie upon the bars of doorway after doorway, becoming an emerald color.
The wide lake in autumn, its streams like blue-green jade buried under dead petals,
Attends the deserted magnolia boat moored safe but alone in the growing misty fog.

She meets her lover on the lake's far side, and gives him a jar of lotus seeds;
Thinking someone may have seen, she has been bashful half the day.
A red stone pendant jingles in the sky, the moon is cold at night and bleak.
On purloined boat she straightens her embroidered shoes,
gauze jacket beaded with sweat.

There is no servant to retrieve her fallen hair comb, once it melts into the moonlit river. 
On the stream, all night long, divine rain softly falls and drenches the lonely lovers, 
She knows a long life in this world will probably be sad and difficult, and due to her
misfortunes her love will be as frosty as the quiet moon.


On Chasing Away Sad Thoughts
by Ho Nansorhon

Fragrant trees flourish with fresh greenery,
Nutmeg leaves already sprout everywhere.

In Spring, nature turns to elegant beauty;
But I alone am full of sadness and grief.

On my wall a map of the Five Sacred Mountains,
At the table head is the Ts'an' t'ung chi.
(oldest surviving text on Taoist Alchemy)

If my quest for the elixir succeeds,
I will pay homage to Emperor Shun.
(a legendary Chinese ruler)

A skirt with six strips of brocade trail along the clouds,
She calls young Juan (legendary Immortal)
and ascends to the Iris Fields.

Suddenly the lute music among the flowers stops;
In the temporal world ten thousand years have passed.


This simple poem was written to her older brother Hagok
who was in political exile at the time, circa 1583.
You can tell she missed him and worried about him.

To Hagok
by Ho Nansorhon

By the dark window
A silver candle burns low.
Fireflies flit across the high pavilion
In the deep of night I am anxious and cold.
Gently, autumn leaves fall.
News from the northern frontier is scarce;
I cannot restrain my endless worries.
From far away I think of Green Lotus Palace.
On the empty mountain shrubs breathe a bright moon.


Coloring Nails With Touch Me Not
by Ho Nansorhon

Evening dew in the golden saucer turns icy in the women's quarters;
Ten fingers of a beautiful woman: slender and delicate.
The balsam is pounded in a bamboo mortar, then wrapped in cabbage leaves.
In the lamplight I wrapped it around my finger nails; my twin earrings chime.

Waking in the morning and lifting up the blinds of my dressing room,
I am delighted to see bright reflections in the mirror.
If I pluck grass it seems like a red-spotted butterfly in flight.
Playing the lute I am surprised to see falling petals of peach blossoms.

When I gently powder my cheeks, or tidy my silky hair
I see tears of blood on speckled bamboos by the River Hsiang:
Brushing in my curved eyebrows, they seem like scarlet raindrops
sweeping over the Spring Mountains.


Fisherman’s Home
by Ho Nansorhon

In the courtyard a sad eastern wind blows,
A tree over the fence is white with peach blossoms.
Leaning against the jade rail she yearns for home.
She cannot return.

Luxuriant foliage of fragrant plants merge into the sky.
Silk draperies and beautiful windows are shut and deserted.
Two streams of tears on the powdered face soak the scarlet blossom.

Beyond the misty trees north and south of the river.
Love does not end.
The mountains are long, the water is wide;
news does not come.


Song Of The Land South Of The River
by Ho Nansorhon

The Land South of the River is a good place:
Open silk dresses and gold feathered caps.
Together people go to collect water-chestnuts;
In unison, they ply their magnolia oars.

People say South of the River is enjoyable
But to me sorrow abides there.
Every year at the port's sand bar
My heart breaks to see the returning boat.

Reflected by the lake, a new moon shines;
Lotus gatherers go home at midnight.
Little boat, don't go near the shore!
A pair of mandarin ducks may be scared away.

Born and raised in a South River village
A young girl has never been anywhere else.
How could she know, at fifteen,
That she would marry a boatman.

Pink lotusroot woven into skirts and jackets;
With white waterweed for floral posies.
Mooring the boat, they alight on the island's shore,
And wait together for the cold tide to ebb.


Coming Soon: Poems of Yi Kyubo & Dong Ju Yun