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In-sob Zong, a Korean literature professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, Seoul National University, Chung-ang University, Tenri College, Kyoto University in Japan and the University of London made many references to comparisons of Asian and Caucasion poetry in his book, “An Introduction to Korean Literature” which is a phenomenon much more commonplace today than in the period of time in which he was writing himself and active in many folklore and literature societies both national and international. He was one of the professors who were responsible for the difficult task of writing a comprehensive explanation of the Romanization of the Korean language by means of the available systems of phonetic transcription based on the Latin alphabet. His words about the similarities between John Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn and A Bluish China Pitcher by Za-un Gu, a modern Korean poet, were thus:
“It has the same haunting melody as does the Keats’s masterpiece. Like its Western counterpart it is a description of an object, not a person. Simply but beautifully it describes not just what one sees on first glance, but what one feels after careful and deep meditation. I enjoyed it the most of any that I read. I think that its remarkable resemblance to Ode on a Grecian Urn (my favorite Western poem) may account for my feelings.”
Here are the two poems for your own perusal and comparison:
Ode on a Grecian Urn
Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
Thou foster child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loath?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter ; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but more endeared,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone;
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal- yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair !
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love !
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or seashore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou are desolate, can e’er return.
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
(Born October 31, 1795, died February 23, 1821 )
A Bluish China Pitcher
Serenely expanded down
Curved jade is moulded.
As if worms crawled
Among the grasses silently,
The colour of a mother’s breast
Reached at last
This pitcher dyed and fair.
Or the floating clouds in the sky
Cannot close down this quiet place.
The whitish feature
Mingled with naïve delicacy
The tight mouth,
The surged pose quietly rolled,
Resembles the round smiling moon
Over the rolling sea.
Thin and frail is the crane in the clouds
And mysteriously made up !
The existence !
Oh, neighbouring death,
A sad worry is to be grasped
With its prettiness !
Whose love is so as this ?
I am here
To pickup with my hands the moon beams through the night
Because of the petals fluttering.
Oh, pitcher !
You are a burlesque
Controlling my wrist;
When the wind blows breezes
As if softly wet in rain and dew,
Creates jade unconsciously.
The Castle Lady covering you with veritable endearments !
A thing of beauty is a joy forever. – John Keats
This entry is also in memorium to my Creative Writing High School teacher Mr. Broten
who first introduced me to Keats and was an inspiration to all who were privileged enough
to attend his classes. RIP my friend. I will never forget you !
Ralph D. Broten, Retired DPS teacher
Born Aug. 20, 1930- Died Aug. 20, 2008