The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Korean Poetry

The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Korean Poetry

Edited by Peter H. Lee
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Columbia Anthology of Traditional Korean Poetry
    Book Description:

    This groundbreaking anthology, edited by the veteran scholar who founded the field of Korean literature in the West, offers a representative selection from the four major genres of native Korean poetry: the Silla songs known as hyangga, Koryo songs, sijo, and kasa. The performance of oral songs was central to the religious life of ancient Koreans, and their passion for song and poetry is as evident in these texts today as it was to the earliest Chinese observers. Therefore, in addition to such classics as the Songs of Flying Dragons, the great eulogy-cycle compiled from 1445 to 1447, the volume also includes folk songs and shamanist narrative songs. Within each genre works are arranged chronologically so that the reader can trace artistic developments over time. The translations, many commissioned especially for this volume, have been prepared by distinguished scholars and literary translators and are fully annotated, making them ideal for use in the classroom.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53387-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
      (pp. 3-6)

      The performance of oral songs in the religious life of the ancient Korean people is vividly recorded in the Chinese dynastic histories. What struck the Chinese then—and will strike the reader now as well—is the Korean people’s love of singing and dancing. At state assemblies the chief ritualist would tell the story of the divine origin of the founder, as evinced by foundation myths, and his extraordinary deeds in war and peace. Recited narrative was interspersed with primal song (norae) that not only welcomed, entertained, and sent off gods and spirits but also moved mountains and set all...

      (pp. 7-28)

      The term “hyangga” (native songs) designates Korean songs as opposed to poetry written in classical Chinese (si). This genre specifically covers the extant twenty-five songs dating from Silla and early Koryŏ, transcribed in the hyangch’al orthographic system, in which Chinese graphs are used phonetically and semantically to represent the sounds of Old Korean.¹

      Great Master Iryŏn (1206–1289), the compiler of the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk yusa, 1285), provides prose settings for fourteen song texts adequate for appreciation of a given song. But in some cases he lumps this information under one heading—under the monk/hwarang/poet Ch’ungdam (fl....

      (pp. 29-56)

      Koryŏ songs (sogyo) are characterized by a recurrent refrain that reflects their folk and musical origins and their oral transmission. They were performed and transmitted orally until the sixteenth century when music books such as Notations for Korean Music in Contemporary Use (Siyong hyangak po)—the first systematic musical notation, providing both written music and written words—recorded them in the Korean alphabet. The survival of Koryŏ song texts results from their adoption as musical accompaniment for use at court from the beginning of the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910). Because no other music was available at the time, the popular...

      (pp. 57-68)

      Songs of Flying Dragons (Yongbi ŏch’ŏn ka, 1445–1447) is a monumental work among early Chosŏn eulogies: a cycle of 125 cantos comprising 248 poems. It was compiled on King Sejong’s order to praise the founding of the Chosŏn dynasty by General Yi Sŏnggye (1335–1408), the king’s grandfather, and to test the use of the new alphabet he had invented. Written by the foremost philologists and literary men in the Academy of Worthies, the Songs combine poetry and historiography to present the orthodox view of recent history. For the most part, the poems express themes of praise found in...

    • SIJO
      (pp. 69-146)

      Sijo is a generic term designating a three-line lyric song (translation uses six or more lines) whose tune was standardized in the eighteenth century so that it could be sung to a uniform musical setting. Dating from the fifteenth century, the sijo was the most popular, elastic, and mnemonic of Korean poetic forms. Each line consists of four metric segments, with a minor pause at the end of the second segment and a major one at the end of the fourth. An emphatic syntactic division is usually introduced in the third line in the form of a countertheme, paradox, resolution,...

      (pp. 147-160)

      Sasŏl sijo is a form of sijo in which more than two metric segments are added in each line (except for the first in the third line). Judging from the 550 or so extant pieces, mostly by anonymous writers, the form enjoyed great popularity from the eighteenth century on. In addition to external structure, the writers introduced innovations in topic, breadth and sweep, voice, diction, point of view, and rhetorical pattern. A typical sasŏl sijo draws from colloquial speech, including taboo words and puns. A marked feature is enumeration—a list of different windows and hinges in the heart, for...

    • KASA
      (pp. 161-200)

      Emerging as a new genre toward the middle of the fifteenth century was the kasa. A typical kasa line, as in sijo, consists of four metric segments. This line is repeated with matched pairings and enumerative development. A poem generally concludes in a line of three, five, four, and three syllables (again as in sijo) in the kasa composed by literati and one of four, four, four, and four in the commoner and women’s kasa. The simple metric basis of kasa invites inventiveness in everything from the development of a theme, narrative techniques, sequences of imagery, and the speaker’s ethos...

    (pp. 201-262)

    Chinese logographs and classics were introduced into ancient Korean kingdoms as early as the second century B.C. In Koguryŏ, a Chinese-style royal academy was established in the late fourth century, and the learned class studied the Five Classics, histories, and the Selections of Refined Literature (Wen hsüan), compiled by Hsiao T’ung (501–531). Paekche had scholars of the Five Classics as well, and it was they who transmitted Chinese primers and Confucian canonical texts to Japan. In Silla, monuments erected at the sites of King Chinhŭng’s tours of inspection, all from the mid-sixth century, show the mastery of written Chinese....

    (pp. 263-280)

    Korean folk songs began to be collected systematically from the twentieth century. The lyrics of some folk songs were recorded earlier in such works as the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms (1285) in hyangch’al orthography and Yi Chehyŏn’s “A Small Collection of Folk Songs” (So akpu), but in Chinese. Folk songs sung in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, such as those preserved in Words for Songs and Music and Notations for Korean Music in Contemporary Use, were recorded in the Korean alphabet in compilations dating from the early sixteenth century. Those from the Chosŏn period appear not to be very...

    (pp. 281-330)

    A shamanist myth unique to Korea,“Song of Entertaining the Holy One” (Sŏngin nori p’unyŏm) tells of the union of a man and woman, conception, and birth, and share several motifs with foundation myths in the north such as those of Tangun and Chumong. In this agricultural myth the heroine’s name is Tanggŭm aegi, tan being an ancient word meaning village or valley, and kam meaning god—hence a village/valley goddess who controls a space where human beings live. The hero, a monk, impregnates a woman, an act unbecoming of him, but he is still worshiped. The monk travels between the...

    (pp. 331-340)
    (pp. 341-350)
    (pp. 351-352)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 353-358)