The Wilderness
(광야)

poem by
Yi Yuk-sa (이육사)
year of publication
1939
poetry collection
Yuk-sa Poetry Collection (육사 시집), 1946
광야
The Wilderness

까마득한 날에
Eons upon eons ago
하늘이 처음 열리고
when the heavens first opened,
어디 닭 우는 소리 들렸으랴.
hardly a crow of rooster could be heard.

모든 산맥들이
When all the mountain ranges
바다를 연모해 휘달릴 때도
ran down to the sea they longed for,
차마 이곳을 범하던 못하였으리라.
they dared not violate this pristine land.

끊임없는 광음을
Endless turns of light and dark
부지런한 계절이 피어선 지고
through the perpetual cycle of seasons
큰 강물이 비로소 길을 열었다.
opened the course of a great river at last.

지금 눈 내리고
It is snowing now
매화 향기 홀로 아득하니
the elusive plum scent ever distant,
내 여기 가난한 노래의 씨를 뿌려라.
yet here I sow the seeds of a meager song.

다시 천고의 뒤에
So after another millennium
백마 타고 오는 초인이 있어
the Great One on a white horse will come
이 광야에서 목놓아 부르게 하리라.
to sing it with a primal cry in this wilderness.
광야

까마득한 날에
하늘이 처음 열리고
어디 닭 우는 소리 들렸으랴.

모든 산맥들이
바다를 연모해 휘달릴 때도
차마 이곳을 범하던 못하였으리라.

끊임없는 광음을
부지런한 계절이 피어선 지고
큰 강물이 비로소 길을 열었다.

지금 눈 내리고
매화 향기 홀로 아득하니
내 여기 가난한 노래의 씨를 뿌려라.

다시 천고의 뒤에
백마 타고 오는 초인이 있어
이 광야에서 목놓아 부르게 하리라.

The Wilderness

Eons upon eons ago
when the heavens first opened,
hardly a crow of rooster could be heard.

When all the mountain ranges
ran down to the sea they longed for,
they dared not violate this pristine land.

Endless turns of light and dark
through the perpetual cycle of seasons
opened the course of a great river at last.

It is snowing now
the elusive plum scent ever distant,
yet here I sow the seeds of a meager song.

So after another millennium
the Great One on a white horse will come
to sing it with a primal cry in this wilderness.
seoraksan mountain covered in snow
Seoraksan mountain near eastern seaboard
photo from 문화유산채널[K-HERITAGE.TV

The Wilderness, Yi Yuk-sa's magnum opus, is a poem of extraordinarily grand scale. It starts with the very opening of the skies, a time so long ago that there wasn't even a rooster crying the break of day. Then we have stately depiction of the founding of Korea, which in his heart was a land even the tectonic movements of the mountains dared not violate, followed by the endless cycle of seasons that ensued, finally coming to the 20th century. Alas, the nation has fallen on a hard time though, with snow falling and prosperity only an elusive dream, as it was under the rule of a foreign country. A born patriot who looked out for his people more than anything throughout his life, turning around this situation and rescuing his nation out of this plight was the calling he took up for himself, ready to dedicate everything he had to the cause -- his youth, literary works, practically everything -- until the last moment when he lost his life under murky circumstances while under custody of the Japanese imperialists. Here is a man who had an iron will that even the threat of death could not bend, and he is fondly remembered for that.

In the final verses, he declares he will sow the seeds of a meager song, even in the face of the bleak situation, so that a great savior will come in time, and sing it to usher in a day - a day of great restoration of the country to its former self, bringing back the lost dignity and setting them on course once again to prosper. And behold! His predictions and wishes indeed have come true spectacularly, as Korea was not only freed from the forces of imperialism, but embarked on a long streak of remarkable endeavors which changed its destiny forever. The series of events that started soon after Yi's death in 1945 continued at a breathtaking pace, right up until Korea has become a proud nation ranking among the top ten nations of the world in most measures, becoming a practical equal, or even leading ahead in many sectors, even when compared with the former aggressor Japan. Yi would be proud if he looked down from above at the present state of the country, for the prosperity achieved by the very people that he fought so hard for all his life, and for the way they remember him for what he did.

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Yi Yuk-sa (이육사)

Respectfully remembered activist intellectual who dedicated his life for indepence and betterment of Korea at a time when it was at the mercy of imperialism.

aritist
Yi Yuk-sa (이육사, 李陸史), poet and activist
birth name
Yi Won-rok (이원록, 李源祿)
nationality
Korea
born
May 18, 1904, in Andong, Korea (경상북도 안동군)
died
January 16, 1944, in Beijing, China
genre
lyric poetry, with political overtones
major works
The Wilderness (광야)
Green Grapes (청포도)
The Peak (절정)
Twilight (황혼)
Tall Tree (교목)
Plantain (파초)
The Sea's Heart (바다의 마음)
Flower (꽃)