Silla Dynasty - Joseon Era - Modern Day

Ho Nansorhon
(1563-1589 Suicide)
Aristocratic Lady Who Fell
Into Despair After Her Two
Young Children Died & Her
Husband Cheated On Her

Ho Nansorhon's Married Home
Was Situated Right Near
This Scene From Goblin K-Drama
She Could See This Lake From Her Home

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.


Yi Kyubo

A Korean scholar, statesman, literary critic, poet,
and prose writer of the Koryo Period (918–1392).
His "Collected Works of Minister Yi of Korea" (1251)
was among the earliest texts by a Korean writer
printed under official sponsorship.

Thinking Of My Daughter
By Yi Kyubo

I have a young daughter;
already she knows how to call her dad and mom.
She drags her skirt along and plays at my knees;
she takes the mirror and imitates her mother at make-up.
How many months now since we parted?
Suddenly it's as if she were by my side.
By nature I'm a wanderer;
dejected, I live in this foreign place.
For weeks I've been on a binge;
I've been laid up sick for a month.
I turn my head and look toward the palace in Seoul;
mountains and streams stretch oppressively far.
This morning suddenly I thought of you;
tears flowed down, wetting my skirt.
Boy, hurry and feed the horse;
my desire to go home grows more urgent
with every passing day.

Yi Kyubo's poem on the loss of his young daughter …


Song of Plucking Flower
By Yi Kyubo

The peony blossoms hold dew, like grains of pearl
The beautiful lady breaks off and picks the blossom,
and passes before a window.
Holding onto a smile, she asks her husband
"Is the flower prettier or is my countenance prettier?"

The husband teases her on purpose, saying
"For prettiness, I would say, the flower and its stem would win."

The beautiful lady became jealous at the winning of flower.
Stepping and destroying the flower with its stem, saying
"If the flower is prettier than concubine
Tonight, sleep together with the flower."

The Mad Rout of the Rat

By Yi Kyubo

My reason for raising a cat was not to catch you.
I had hoped that the sight of the cat would make you cower and hide.
But you don't hide; instead you bore through the walls,
you come and go at will: why, why?

It's bad enough that you come out to play,
how dare you instigate this present mad rout!

Your squabbles are so raucous you interfere with sleep,
you steal our food with incredible speed:
 the fact that you wiz around in spite of the cat
shows that the cat is lacking skill.

The cat may not be doing its job,
but your crimes are weighty still.
I can whip the cat,
I can drive it out,
but you are difficult to catch and tie.
Rats, rats! mend your ways
or I'll govern you with a fierce new cat.


Reading T'ao Yuan-ming's Poems
By Yi Kyubo

I love T'ao Yuan-ming;
his poems are limpid and pure.
He always strummed a string-less lyre;
his poems have that same quiet grace.

Sublime rhythm is of its nature soundless;
there's no need to strum the lyre.
Sublime language is of its nature world-less;
it's not necessary to carve and trim.
This is a wisdom that springs from nature:
the longer chewed, the better the taste.

T'ao Yuan-Ming freed himself from official business:
he returned to his country,
to wander among pine, bamboo and chrysanthemum.
When he had no wine, he sought out a friend,
he fell down drunk everyday.

On the sleeping bench he stretched his body out;
the breeze blew cool and refreshing.
From the bright ancient world he came,
a scholar, noble and true.

I think of the man when I read his poems;
his integrity will be praised for a thousand years.


Lines On Not Beating The Ox
By Yi Kyubo

Don't beat the ox, the ox is to be pitied.
Though the ox be yours, beating it is no imperative.
What wrong has the ox done to you?
Why do you target your abuse at it?
It bears heavy loads long distances;
its shoulders are tired rather than yours.
Its tongue hangs out as it plows great fields;
it fills your mouth and your belly.
Having served you so faithfully,
you delight to ride it like a horse.
Fine for you playing the pipe as you ride,
but the jaded ox keeps lagging behind.
The tardier the ox the more you abuse it,
the more frequently you give it the whip!
Don't beat the ox, the ox is to be pitied.
Should the ox die tomorrow, what would you use?
Cowherd, cowherd, how very foolish;
the ox is not made of iron, how can it endure more?


Parting from a Beauty
By Yi Kyubo

She doesn't ask me when I'll return;
Back and forth she paces;
unwittingly she grabs my sleeve.
Don't pour your tears
in a thousand jeweled streams;
make raindrops of them,
come to me occasionally in dreams.


Song of Obliviscence

By Yi Kyubo

The people of this world have all forgotten me;
I am alone in the four seas.
It's not just others who have forgotten me,
but my own brothers - they have forgotten me!
Today my wife forgot me;
tomorrow I'll forget myself.
Soon in heaven and earth
I'll have no ties close or distant.


Visiting a Monk Friend
By Yi Kyubo

My mind goes back to the old days
when we used to go out together in the capital;
I make a calculation; already it's been fourteen years.
You were in your prime physically, not yet thirty.
Your body, you claimed, could emulate the wild goose.
I had black glossy hair, the youngest in our group.
My eyes flashed lightning like Wang Jung
Parting, we dispersed like clouds: no one knew where.
We were like twin mugworth rolling through
the winds and dust of the four seas.

We meet now, have a laugh, caress the copper doll;
tears well, I can't go on, but the heart abides.
My monk friend no longer looks like he did;
he's haggard and gaunt like an old crane on a pine.

I'm old too and my heart has shriveled;
the rainbow spirit I once had is gone.
We couldn't say everything in our hearts;
in our sorrow neither of us realized
the sun was hanging red half way up the mountain.

Life is but a moment in time;
better forget fame and fortune
and follow my monk friend Chigong.


Cutting Down On Wine
By Yi Kyubo

I'm tired of people branding me a drunkard.
I've cut down lately;
and of course there are no complaints.
It's just that when I loose my brush
and try to chant a noble song,
it's as if one wing were broken
and I cannot spread my plumes.

Another Poem Next Day
By Yi Kyubo

Even when I'm sick
I can't firmly decline a drink.
The day I die I know will be my first day
liberated from the cup.
What zest has life for a sober man,
but to go to heaven drunk --
ah, that would be really fine!


Evening On The Mountain: Song To The Moon In The Well
By Yi Kyubo

Blue water ripples the well at the corner of the mossy rock.
The new moon is beautifully etched therein.
I scoop out some water, but only a shadow enters my jar.
I fear I'll only bring half the golden mirror home.

A mountain monk coveted the moon;
he drew water, a whole jar full;
but when he reached his temple, he discovered
that tilting the jar meant spilling the moon.


Once Again To The Rhyme of "Leasing A Straw Hat"
By Yi Kyubo

Better become an old tiller of the soil
than shame myself by buying preferment.
If you live on a government stipend
you're like a monkey in a cage: you eat what you get.
I want to forget the world and fly like a bird
The deeper you hide jade the more it asserts its beauty;
why should the orchid be sad because it isn't plucked?
My singular joy is to have clusters of black-haired children
running around my sleeping bench.


I Hate Flies When I'm Trying To Sleep
By Yi Kyubo

Shew them off, back they come again; energy flags.
I cover myself with the quilt and try to sleep,
but dreams prove elusive.

Why blame these persecutors of the body: they fly to their death in wine glasses
and don't even know it.

Who else would so covet the smell of meat?
They stipple everything, black and white.
What's in the dreary bedclothes
that they band together to buzz me
when I'm trying to sleep?


Burning My Manuscripts (written in Hanshi)
By Yi Kyubo

In my youth I used to write songs.
When the brush moved down the page,
I wrote with unimpeded flow.

My poems, I thought, were as beautiful as jade;
who dared talk about flaws?

Afterward I studied them again:
there wasn't a fine word in one of them.

To retain them would be to soil my writing box:
unbearable thought, so I burned them in the kitchen fire.

If I look next year at this year's poems
They will all be the same; I'll scrap them too.

Perhaps that's why Minister Kao of old
first composed when he was fifty.


Poetry: A Chronic Disease
by Yi Kyubo

I'm over seventy now
An official of the first rank.
I know I should give up poetry
But somehow I can't.
Mornings I sing like a cricket,
Evenings I hoot like an owl.
I'm possessed by a devil I can't exorcise,
night and day it follows me stealthily around.
Once possessed I never have a moment free,
a fine mess it's gotten me in.

Day after day I shrivel heart and liver
just to write a few poems.
Body fats and fluids depleted
there's nothing left but skin and grizzle.
Bones protruding, struggling to recite,
I make a very foolish figure.

I have no words to elicit wonder,
nothing to pass on that will last a thousand years.
I clap my hands, guffaw, and when the laughter bout subsides
I begin to recite again.

My life and death hang on poetry;
not even a physician could cure this disease.



My Cuddles As A Puppy

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