ChaRyeong Mountain Range

  • onOctober 19, 2016
  • Vol.33 Autumn 2016
  • byKo Un


Let us not like distant mountains.
There are many lies in distant mountains.
let us now not like distant mountains.
Poets, seeds of our nation’s mind,
a catastrophe that should be prevented is coming again to us,
to nearby fields where harvest is done and sheaves of rice are piled,
into vast twilight.
What we have hitherto long rejoiced at in disgrace
and foolishness
has turned into distant mountains, growing dark.
It is growing dark on the Taebaek mountain range’s Odae-san,
then in Mounts Chiak, Baekun and Seo-un,
then in Mount Jakseong in Cheonan, Mount Heukseong.
It is growing dark in the pine groves of Cheong-yang, in Bo-ryeong,
in Jang-hang, with its smelter.
You mountain ranges, linked like a long history,
how could you not give birth to a poet
who would flee away from every kind of lie?
let us not like distant mountains.
Even the darkness over a mountain range six hundred li long,
even the power of that long, long darkness, knows
that catastrophe is coming to us,
that a time is coming when we will praise catastrophe,
that a time when we will have to say that anything evil is sacred
is coming.
Poets, let us now not like distant mountains.
Even though mountains that will continue on over many generations
are what we are most proud of in the world,
even though the Anseong streams that break our hearts while flowing
are so sincere they make us sorrowful,
catastrophe is approaching us again.
Asan Bay where the sun has set
and the green fields of Pyeongtaek all know that.
What will be a poem for you when we are in catastrophe?
Poets, let’s finally resolve
that we will fall rejecting the devastation coming to us,
that we will soar up, overthrowing another wickedness that will come to us.
Young poets,
poets who are the last rhythms of our land,
poets who cannot but be a light by night,
turn on the light solemnly, each of you.
Now efface the distant mountains from your hearts.

Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé and Lee Sang-Wha



Author's Profile

Ko Un’s poetry collections have been translated into twenty-seven languages, east and west. English editions of his books include Ten Thousand LivesManinbo: Peace & WarFirst Person SorrowfulHimalaya Poems; and What?: 108 Zen Poems. He has received several prestigious awards, such as the Golden Wreath Award at the 53rd Struga Poetry Evenings in Macedonia, the America Award, Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award, Bjørnson Order for Literature, and the Republic of Korea’s Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit. His poems have been featured in PO&SIEChicago ReviewWorld Literature TodayThe New YorkerAzalea, and Mānoa.