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Come out, snake!
I went to the opening of a retrospective
exhibition of paintings by the great master
Pung-gok (Song Chae-hyu);
bringing together the major works of his
lifetime's career -- seventy years --
it filled both floors of the Hoam Gallery.
Strolling round the gallery with him
I said, just to have something to say,
'Are all these really painted from your own inspiration?'
and congratulated him;
'Sometimes I copied other people's things,'
was his riposte.
We moved on a bit then stopped
together in front of a painting
entitled "Come out, snake!"
Beneath an evening moon as big as a tray
a frog as big as a rock is sitting
squat on his behind, his back legs spread out,
a bulging stomach as big as Namsan hill;
on the palm of his left paw extended before him
he is holding high a big glass brimming with liquor;
with eyes big as saucers, his mouth gaping fit to split,
a strange and touching sight, all flushed with drink...
'Aha, your self-portrait, my dear!'
'Hmm. Do you possibly know this admirable condition?'
'Well, I'm no good at the way of righteousness,
but when it comes to the way of drinking...'
We looked at one another and guffawed loudly
'Do you still drink, old friend?'
'I've said good-bye to all that! What about you?'
'Me too; doctor's orders!'
We each fell into a melancholy silence.
Note: The picture in question is reproduced above.