Song of Karma-destiny

  • onDecember 16, 2015
  • Vol.30 Winter 2015
  • bySeo Jeong-ju
The Early Lyrics of So Chong Ju
Tr. Brother Anthony of Taizé


Once I bloomed as a peony flower.
Nearby, in sight of me, there lived a pretty maid.
At last, once day
my petals dropped to the ground; they lay there,
they dried; and so with time they turned to dust,
were united with the clay.
Just then, the little girl died too,
they buried her in the ground nearby.
Soon the rain came pouring down,
swept away the dust, the ashes of the peony flower;
that water poured into a flowing stream,
and the blood of the maid who now lay in the ground
trickled too into that selfsame stream.
The peony dust floating in the stream
entered the guts of a passing fish
and soon became part of the fish’s flesh;
just then the maid’s lost blood that had trickled down
was caught in a wave that rippled close by the fish.
The fish leaped for joy, at which the poor thing
was caught and eaten by a water-bird flying just above;
a moment more, and the blood of the maid was drawn up
by the sunbeams’ might, went rising into the sky and became
a cold caressing that bird’s feathered wings.
One day a hunter’s arrow struck the bird
and down it went, dropping to the ground;
the cloud begged it to stay but that could not be.
The cloud conceived and fell as rain
on the garden of the people who had bought the bird.
That couple ate the bird that night, digested it,
then begot a child, that was born and grew.
Meanwhile the shower had thawed a seed,
a peony seed, buried in the ground;
it sprouted, it grew, and began to flower.
At last in the garden the day has come
for the newly sprung plant to blossom its best.
Look! Flower and amid in sight of each other again!
Only today the maid is alive in the flower, while
the former peony is now looking out, a part of me.

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Seo Jeong-ju (1915 ~ 2000) was a Korean poet who wrote under the pen name Midang. He is widely considered as one of the best poets in twentieth-century Korean literature.