Pak Tu-Jin, the last survivor of the 'Green Deer Trio', died on September 16, 1998, at the age of eighty-two. He survived the other two by decades: Cho Ji-Hun by exactly a generation and Pak Mog-Wol by twenty years. Their joint publication, The Green Deer Anthology (1946) was indeed a milestone in modern Korean poetry, bridging a gap between the generations before and after Korea's Liberation in 1945.
Pak Tu-Jin was born in 1916 in a farming village in Ansong, some forty miles south of Seoul. As his family was so poor, he received almost no formal education, but he was talented enough to learn to write poetry, presumably through reading the Korean-language Bible and volumes of modern Korean poems. He made his debut in 1939 by publishing two poems, 'In Praise of the Graveyard' and 'Hyanghyon'. It was in Munjang, the most prestigious Korean literary magazine of the day and through the recommendation of Chong Chi-Yong, the most keen-eyed judge of poetry of that time.
Before and after the liberation of Korea, he had various jobs at a tax office, in publishing houses and magazine offices. By the early 1950s, however, his reputation was such that he was invited to teach at a few universities in Seoul. Even after his retirement from Yonsei University in 1971, he taught for fifteen more years at a couple of academic and artistic institutions. In 1996, he was elected to the National Academy of Arts, an honour which he had refused to accept when the country was under dictatorship.
As a person and a poet, Pak Tu-Jin kept a remarkable integrity in his life. During the darkest days of Japanese colonial rule, when writing poems in Korean could be a dangerous adventure, he used to write poems and hide them under the hencoop in his house. Immediately after Korea's liberation, he joined the nationalist writers then overwhelmed in number by their leftist counterparts. Under the prolonged military dictatorship from the 1960s through the 1980s, he took an uncompromising stance which found expression directly or obliquely in his poetry of that period.
His integrity, courage and sense of justice seem
to have derived from his Christian faith as well as from his personal temperament.
The Christian element in his poetry was discernible from the very beginning,
as manifested in his debut pieces mentioned above. His early poetry, most
characteristic of his poetic style, focuses on nature, as did the poetry
of his other two colleagues. The nature in his poetry, however, is not
merely nature as such; it often provides a medium or setting in which the
poet aspires after communion with God or prays for the Christian ideals
to be realized. In his later years, he wrote a long series of poems on
'water stones,' interestingly shaped stones found by or in rivers, which
he kept collecting at the time. In the series of poems, he attempted to
unite nature, man and God, which he once said were the three subjects of
his poetry. After the joint anthology of the 'Green Deer Trio', Pak Tu-Jin
was the first to come up with his own individual collection. He published
Sun in 1949, followed by nine more volumes of poetry plus several volumes
Beyond the mountain studded with stumpy little pines, beyond the huge mountain behind, beyond the mountain yet behind, no more visible, my mind floats adrift, adrift on the clouds.
The mountain that soars, the mountain prone, thick with tall pines, the rocks tangled over with wild grape vines and creepers, dense with oaks and eulalias and teeming with innumerable animals, racoon dogs, foxes, deer, rabbits, badgers, lizards, and yellow-spotted snakes.
Mountains, mountains, mountains! How boring your silence must have been over a myriad of years!
Mountains, may I await the flames that will one day erupt from your soaring peaks, from your prone ridges?
May I confidently await the day when foxes, wolves, and the like will be playing jubilantly, searching for the shoots of besoms and arrowroots, together with deer and rabbits?
(Note: Hyanghyon is the name of a mountain
O Sun, arise. O Sun, arise. O lovely Sun, your face bathed clean, arise. Over the mountains, over the mountains, consume the darkness, consume the darkness over the mountains all night long, then arise, O lovely Sun, with your blazing face of innocence.
Odious moonlight, odious moonlight, odious moonlight in the tearful vales; how I hate moonlight in empty gardens!
O Sun, O lovely Sun, when you come, when you come indeed, I love the blue mountains, love the blue mountains fluttering their plumes. Happy in solitude when mountains are blue.
Following deer, following deer, into the sun, into the sun, I frolic with deer when I meet the deer. Following tigers, following tigers, I frolic with tigers when I meet the tigers.
O Sun, O lovely Sun, O Sun, arise. Joined with
you, and not in a dream, flowers and birds and beasts sit close together,
all summoned to sit together, we shall enjoy a lovely day of innocence.
They say this is my home village. They say this is my home village where I was born and grew up. My home village where I grew up, where I was born on a straw mat and raised my first cry without knowing where it was, on a long-ago night of blizzard and shivering stars.
Mount Blue Dragon surrounds the village as of old and the sky I looked up at was blue. Though the clouds rise, the heifers low and the swallows twitter, Maksoe, Boksul and other old friends are all gone away; only Dol remains, with spiky whiskers now.
Have twenty years elapsed? O fleeting years! I have come back like a floating cloud, but only the blue sky greets me warmly as in the old days, not the home village. My beloved home seems somewhere else, so I am sadly prompted to tears.
The thin autumn twilight. My father's grave lonely
at the foot of a hill. There are wild raspberries ripening but there is
not a tree giving shade, nor a blue bird to come and sing. I pluck and
bring pinks, wild chrysanthemums and other wild flowers in a bunch, but
I cannot call out, 'Father.' I cannot weep over him. I spend half
a day on this empty hillside, only choked with tears. Looking up at the
floating clouds, I grow even lonelier at the foot of the hill where I,
too, may one day be buried.
Song of Calvary 1
Even the sun dared not shine,
hiding its face;
It was only dark, dark as night.
The heart drips, drop by drop,
the heaven-sent, purple blood.
O Eli Eli lama sabachtani,
Eli Eli lama sabachtani. . .
The sound of breathing, dying of love,
subsides as a sinking wind.
O the hill, the hill, the empty hill,
nothing ever happened to you again.
Mary, Salome, James's mother, Mary:
only the wailing of women in the distance.
How many blades of grass were blown,
blown by the wind desolately?
O the hill, O the death, O the hill, O the quiet,
nothing ever happened to you again.
The Voices of Children
The voices of shouting and
ring out clearly, spreading to the sky,
out of the splashing muddy alley,
outside the gate,
where the heaviest snow
in forty-odd years melts.
Why haven't I noticed those voices
that must have been ringing for some time?
I must have been deep in something, unaware,
and come back to myself, to realities,
to an inevitable consciousness of here and now
by the inspiration that awakes me, coming from the alley
beyond the windows, the walls and the furniture.
I must have come to these children's vivid voices,
coming back to myself from the unconsciousness
in which I was engrossed in something
in pure and abstract meditation.
Those shrill voices, that running and shouting
must have been also mine
when I was their age.
O those children's voices ringing to the sky
from the mud in which they run
on this day of early spring
when the heaviest snow
in forty-odd years melts
and the south wind stirs.
The White Porcelain Jar Excavated at Potanli Village
I would fill it with all
the blue water
of the leisurely flowing South Han River.
I would fill it with all the shards of stars
in the night sky's Milky Way.
I would fill it
with all your secret eternal vows,
all the tall flames of our passions
and all the hot tears of our youth.
(Note: Potanli Village is near Chungju in North
In Epistolary Style
Sing to me. Sing me a song
that will never be sung again. Sing me a song you would wish to sing only
once. Sing to me more loftily than those loftiest stars in the skies at
night; with a greater heat than that of the sun, of the seething mass of
the sun; more stirringly than the sea-waves that rise, subside, overturn,
ebb and flow. Sing to me more lightly than a petal, a breeze, a ray of
light; more limpidly than a dewdrop, a tear-drop, a crystal bead. Sing
to me more throbbingly, more rapturously than a union of your soul and
my soul, of your flesh and my flesh. Sing to me with an orgasmic thrill.
Sing to me a whole eternity, all the beginnings and ends, and apex, the
apex of apexes. Sing to me the bottom of bottoms, the depth of depths.