Gang Jeongildang – Spring Dreams

Ipchun

Gang Jeongildang (姜靜一堂, 강정일당, 1772-1832) was a late Chosun dynasty poetess and Neo-Confucian scholar. She was of the Jinju Gang Clan (晉州姜氏, 진주강씨); her childhood name (兒名, 아명) was Jideok (至德, 지덕); and her pen name (號, 호) was Jeong’ildang (靜一堂, 정일당). She was born into an gentry, but poor Yangban (兩班, 양반) family that had not seen anyone rise to a bureaucratic position for a number of generations. As a child, Gang Jeongildang followed her mother and learned weaving. At the age of 20, she was married to Yun Gwangyeon (尹光演, 윤광연, 1778-1838), but only moved in three years later because the husband’s family was too poor to support her. After moving in, Gang Jeongildang started learning Confucian classics along with her husband to help him study for the civil service examinations (科擧, 과거). Despite his studying, Yun Gwangyeon failed the civil service examination. At the advice of Gang Jeongildang, he abandoned his aspirations for bureaucracy and opened a Confucian school (書堂, 서당) to teach Chinese classics to children in the area. Gang Jeongildang bore Yun Gwangyeon five sons and four daughters, but all of them unfortunately died before reaching the age of one. Her legacy, however, was carried on by her written works. Even during her lifetime, she became rather known for her poetry, calligraphy, and writings on Confucian tenets. After she passed away at the age of 61, her husband compiled all her works and published them in the The Remnant Drafts of Jeongildang (靜一堂遺稿, 정일당유고).

春夢 춘몽

Spring Dreams

水晶簾外日將闌 수정렴외일장란
垂柳深沈覆碧欄 수류심침복벽란
枝上黃鶯啼不妨 지상황앵제불방
尋君夢已到長安 심군몽이도장안

Outside my crystal blinds, the sun will soon fall;
But the weeping willows in deep sleep cover the blue rails.
Above the branches, nightingales chirp without interruption.
Finding you, my dear, in my dreams, I have already arrived at Jang’an (長安, 장안).

Definitions:

Water • crystal • shades • outside • sun • will • to decline
To hang • willows • deep • asleep • to cover • blue • handrails
Branches • above • yellow • nightingale • to chirp • not • to obstruct
To find • you • dreams • already • to arrive • long • peace

Notes:

  • Heptasyllabic truncated version (七言絶句, 칠언절구). Riming character (韻, 운) is 寒(한).
  • 垂柳(수류) – Literally, “hanging willow trees.” Refers to weeping willows.
  • 長安(장안) – Jang’an, or in Mandarin Chang’an, was the capital of many Chinese dynasties and is now modern day Xi’an (西安, 서안). Chosun era poets referred to Seoul (서울) by this name.
  • Korean translation available here.
1 comment
  1. Alice Cheang said:

    What a beautiful poem. Thank you!

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