The 7th day of the 7th month on the Chinese Lunar Calendar, which fell last week, is the Double Seventh Festival, or Chilseok (七夕, 칠석) as it is pronounced in Korean. The day commemorates the annual meeting of a cowherd named Gyeon’u (牽牛, 견우) and a weaver named Jiknyeo (織女, 직녀) across the Bridge of Magpies and Crows, called Ojakgyo (烏鵲橋, 오작교). According to mythology, these two were lovers that had to be separated on opposite sides of the Milky Way. They correspond to the stars Altair and Vega respectively.
This blogger read somewhere in the Korean blogosphere that Korean newspapers such as the Donga Ilbo (東亞日報, 동아일보) and Chosun Ilbo (朝鮮日報, 조선일보) regularly printed Classical Chinese poetry in the former half of the 20th century, including poems expressing Korean nationalism even during the Japanese occupation. Fortuitously, on his first search on Naver’s Newspaper Library, he found a poem about Chilseok printed on the front page of the Donga Ilbo on August 21st, 1920, composed by someone with the pen name (號, 호) of “Hwasannocho” (華山老樵, 화산노초), meaning “the old lumberjack of Mount Hwa.”
An Unrestrained Composition on the Double Seventh Festival
The golden gust shakes the flames, flowing west.
On the Double Seventh, a wondrous day, it befalls that I frolic.
The Bridge of Crows and Magpies forms and the Milky Way becomes bright;
The leaves of the Paulownia tree fall and the handrail around the well signal Autumn.
Quickly and suddenly, they reunite and part — the descendant of heaven’s sorrow;
Faint and weak is the passing of light and darkness — the guest’s anxiety.
My old stomach is empty and hollow, and no place is there for the sun’s rays.
Under the obliquely shining sunlight, I grab some wine and ascend the high pagoda.
- 金飇(금표) – Literally means the “golden gust.” Refers to the strong winds that blow in Autumn.
- 雲漢(운한) – Another name for the milky way (銀河, 은하).
- 天孫(천손) – Literally means the “descendant of heaven.” Refers to Jiknyeo.
- 光陰(광음) – Literally means “light and darkness.” Refers to the time.
- 飇(표) – Strong gust (暴風, 폭풍).
- 怱怱(총총) – To be quick or sudden.
- 苒苒(염염) – To be faint or weak; to be light; to be thick and overgrown.
- 晒(서) – The shining rays of the sun; the warmth from the sun.