The Mooonlit Pond: Korean Traditional Poems in Chinese is a translation by Sul-Il Lee.
So, the poems in this collection were written in Chinese by Koreans and then were probably handed down by generations in Korean translations. Now here we have an English translation of these poems.
“Sewing for Her Husband” by Sol Son (14th century)
The bright moon that lights the sky above
Casts beams into this long autumn night.
A sad wind blows from the northwest,
And crickets chirp near my bed.
You, love, are far away on a mission,
And I keep this empty room alone.
What pains the most is not my being alone in this room –
I worry that you won’t have enough to wear.
Why this one? This love is REAL. (Actually, I’m not sure I would call this “love.” It’s something else. But I can’t seem to find the right word here – so “love” it is for a lack of better word. Please – if you think of another word, tell me.)
This strikes me as quintessential Korean sentiment (although certainly not uniquely Korean). The poem starts with a beautiful description of nature and the loneliness that matches the moon and the autumn night. Then it turns and becomes a sentiment often expressed by my own mother – Did you eat?
I certainly don’t mean to trivialize or poke fun at such a sentiment. It’s love expressed in a way that I can only call “real”. For our loved ones we worry about their well-being, not just that we miss them or that we need them.
I like this collection of translations because collectively they give me a glimpse into my culture many centuries back. I know very little about Korean history or culture, and I’m excited for any opportunity to understand a little more.