Kim Eungjo – Eagerly Waiting for the End of the Summer Heat

CheoseoKim Eungjo (金應祖, 김응조, 1587-1667) was a Chosun literati bureaucrat. He was of the Pungsan Kim Clan (豊山金氏, 풍산김씨). His courtesy name (字, 자) was Hyojing (孝徵, 효징); and his pen names were Haksa (鶴沙, 학사) and Aheon (啞軒, 아헌). He passed the civil examination (科舉, 과거) in 1613, but decided not to enter into the bureaucracy until 1623. He successively progressed up the civil ranks. Kim Eungjo was said to excel in prose.

In the poem below, he describes his vexation at the extreme heat and hope for when Cheoseo (處暑, 처서) arrives. Cheoseo is one of the 24 solar terms of the year and occurs on August 23rd on the Gregorian Calendar when the earth is between 150 and 165 degrees around the celestial longitude around the sun. It also demarcates the end of the Summer heat. The “Cheo” (處, 처) in “Cheoseo”  means “to stop” (머무르다) or “to rest” (휴식하다). Together, the word “Cheoseo” means “the end of the heat.” 

苦待處暑 고대처서

玉鑠金流水若蒸 옥삭금류수약증
餘威不許蓐收爭 여위불허욕수쟁
郊墟幾日新涼入 교허기일신량입
屈指猶存二十蓂 굴지유존이십명

Eagerly Waiting for the End of the Summer Heat

The jade melts, the metal flows, and the water is like steam.
My remaining dignity does not permit me as I lay on my mat to stop my quibbles.
From the fields and hills on what day will the new chill enter?
I have counted on my fingers, and still there are twenty Myeonghyeop leaves.

Notes:

  • 蓂(명) refers to mythical plant known as Myeonghyeop (蓂莢, 명협) that existed during the reign of Emperor Yao (堯, 요, Yo, 2356-2255 BC). It supposedly had the property of growing one leaf per day from the day of new moon to the day of the full moon and then losing one leaf per day from the day after the full moon until the next new moon. The Chinese lunar calendar was purportedly created based on the properties of this mythical plant. Alternative Korean names for this plant are dalryeokpul (달력풀, -曆-) and chaekryeokpul (책력풀, 冊曆-).
  • Another translation of the phrase “二十蓂” is “twenty days.”

Characters:

  • 鑠(삭) – To melt (녹다).
  • 蓐(욕) – Rug (깔개).
1 comment
  1. Jeff said:

    Without this literal translation and footnotes, the cultural aspect of the poem cannot be fully appreciated if you translated it as twenty days. Also 莢 is “pod” in Chinese.

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