Tie my silk skirt with a silk belt
covering tear trails.
Every year during blossoming spring
I resent Wang Son.
On the engraved lute
I finish playing Longing for a Lover.
Rain strikes pear blossoms—
close the door on the day.
Under the moon
autumn ends in the pavilion—
the painted paper screen
empty of feeling.
Ice coats fields of reeds—
evening geese alight.
I play the carved harp
where others cannot see—
a lotus corolla
in the field pond.
Sensations of Spring
Far from his palatial villa, I grow disconsolate—
only letters come on the Han River.
Thrushes trill at daybreak through numbing rains—
a willow sways flirtatiously in the middle season of roses.
Weeds sprout from cracks, crumbling cleanly cut steps—
my elegant cither, blanketed by bone-white dust.
Who believes my guest will return in his pine boat?
At the river’s docks, snowy-white water chestnuts in full flower.
The Courtesan Houses
Over a hundred thousand brothels
line narrow lanes.
of seven incense-breathing woods
at each house’s gate.
A whipping eastern wind
limbs of longing willows—
on a haughty horse’s back
a man treads
on fallen flowers.
Nansŏrhŏn Hŏ (Nahn-suhl-hun Huh) is the more commonly known pen name of Cho-hee Hŏ (1563-89), a Korean noblewoman. Married at the age of 14, Nansŏrhŏn then lived a sequestered life largely removed from the outside world. Troubled by the losses of her children, father, a close brother, and absence of her husband, she began to write poems of longing for another world—a Taoist world—in her final years.
(Translated from the Korean by Ian Haight and Taeyoung Hŏ)