This week we end National Poetry Month with a poem from Everything Yearned For: Manhae’s Poems of Love and Longing. Manhae (1879-1944), or Han Yongun, was a Korean Buddhist (Son) monk during the era of Japanese colonial occupation (1910-1945). Manhae is a political and cultural hero in Korea, and his works are studied by college students and school children alike. The poems collected here are love poems, evocative of the mystical love poetry of Rumi, and even reminiscent of the work of Pablo Neruda. Though Manahe’s poetry can be read allegorically on many levels—political and religious—it is completely unlike any other poetry in Buddhist or secular realm.
My song has no fixed rhythm,
so it has nothing in common with normal tunes.
This doesn’t grieve me,
because my song should be different.
Melody smooths out the defect of songs.
Melody grinds up unnatural songs with human delusions.
To set genuine song to music dishonors its nature.
Music blemishes my song, just as making up your face disfigures it.
My song makes the god of love cry.
My song squeezes youth into rare, pure water.
My song enters your ear and becomes heaven’s music;
It enters your dream and becomes tears.
I know you hear my song across the distant fields and mountains.
When its pitch stumbles and falls silent,
my song enters your sad, quiet thoughts and vanishes.
When I think of you listening to my song,
my heart pounds with exhilaration and draws out the notes of silence.
To learn more about Everything Yearned For, click here.