The Korea Times 칼럼

Tilting the jar, spilling the moon (2010년 9월 25일)

divicom 2010. 9. 25. 08:52

Dear Mr. Miyazaki, how are you doing? Have you done some reading of the sijo poems I sent to you? We Koreans usually have the best time to ``spill the moon by tilting the jar” on and around Chuseok, the Autumnal Full Moon Day, but the moon was hidden or washed away by an unprecedented torrential rain on this year’s Chuseok that fell on Wednesday.

The Gwanghwamun streets in the heart of Seoul, where you walked a while to visit the book café of our encounter, turned into a vast lake and rain water flowed into the shops along the boulevard. As a resident of Ibaraki, the prefecture of many lakes, you must be quite familiar with the beauty of lakes, but the ``Gwanghwamun Lake” was far from beautiful. It only made many hearts ache and I was one of them.

It was even more painful to see King Sejong, one of the greatest kings of Joseon Kingdom, sit in the pounding rain in the makeshift lake. You may not know this, but scores of old, deep-rooted ginkgo and plane trees inhabited the area before the present Gwanghwamun Plaza was opened last year. More than a few people regretted uprooting of those trees with a belief that the area wouldn’t have become a lake had they remained.

Mr. Miyazaki, since you like the traditional Korean poetry of sijo very much, you may be interested in learning that King Sejong was a great lover of poetry, too. He was Joseon’s fourth king who, along with his scholars, created the Korean alphabet, Hangeul, in 1443. Two years later, he had his scholars write a lengthy epic lauding his predecessors, entitled ``Yongbieocheon-ga” in Hangeul. You may find it ironic that the most popular line from the epic reads: ``Deep-rooted trees are not swayed by wind; their flowers are beautiful; their fruits are abundant.”

Now, let me stop lamenting about the flooding of Gwanghwamun streets and talk about why I had to send ``Tilting the Jar, Spilling the Moon,” the sijo book, to you. on that day, when you and Mrs. Miyazaki came into the book café, I was sipping a nice hot café latte there along with the proprietor and a few others. You went through the shelves and asked us if there were any English translation of Korean sijo. The owner said ``no” matter-of-factly, but I felt ashamed as I wondered if the absence of sijo translations reflected the lack of contemporary Koreans’ respect for time-honored cultural values.

So, I volunteered to obtain a copy of such for you. You said you were returning home the next day and I promised to send it to your home in Japan. I have a copy of ``Tilting the Jar, Spilling the Moon,” a collection of sijo poems by Goryeo and Joseon poets, and I was resolved to get one for you. The title comes from a poem by Goryeo nobleman Yi Kyu-bo (1168~1241). The translation was done by Kevin O’Rourke, an Irish priest and honorary professor of Kyung Hee University in Seoul. The poem’s original title is ``井中月,” which literally means ``moon in the well.” Professor O’Rourke’s translation reads like this:

"A mountain monk coveted the moon;
he drew water, a whole jar full;
but when he reached his temple, he discovered
that tilting the jar meant spilling the moon.”

Mr. Miyazaki, tilting the jar and watching the moon spill will be easier for you than me, as you live in Tsukuba, a city much quieter and scholarly than Seoul. You mentioned that you read Hermann Hesse most of the time. Perhaps it will be easier also to read Hesse in your town than in Seoul, although his works will do better for Seoulites.

As I read your e-mail statement that you have resumed Korean language studies which you had stopped 13 years ago, I felt the urge to reciprocate. I tried to learn Japanese when I was a collegian but failed to do so because I couldn’t memorize Hiragana and Katakana. I will try to learn Japanese so that we can converse in our languages instead of English when we meet again.

Now that the world outside dries, it is autumn suddenly. I hope your skies are as blue as the skies here. The 17th century poet Yun Son-do wrote in a river village: “I look back on the world of men; the farther off the better.” I believe that we can say the same thing without going to a river village but simply by looking up at the high skies. May your autumn be full of sheer happiness!


종로구 중학동 옛날 한국일보 건물 맞은 편에 출판문화회관이 있고, 그 지하에 서울셀렉션 북카페가 있습니다. 그 북카페엔 영어나 다른 외국어로 쓰인, 혹은 번역된 한국 책들과 한국에 관한 책들이 있어서 외국인 손님들이 많이 옵니다.


얼마전 거기서 맛좋은 카페 라떼를 마시고 있을 때 일본인 부부 한 쌍이 들어와 열심히 서가를 들여다보았습니다. 찾는 책이 없었던지 남편되는 이가 우리 일행 --마침 그 중에 카페 주인이 있었습니다.--에게, 혹시 시조를 영역해놓은 책이 없느냐고 영어로 물었습니다. 유감스럽게도 그곳엔 그런 책이 없었습니다. 문득 저희 집에 있는 시조 영역본 "Tilting the Jar, Spilling the Moon"이 떠올랐습니다. 고려 시인 이규보의 시에 쓰인 문장으로 제목을 삼은 책입니다. "항아리를 기울이니 달이 쏟아지네." 얼마나 아름다운 시입니까?


다른 시조 영역본은 몰라도 그 책은 구할 수 있을 것 같아 그 일본인에게 내가 한 권 구해주겠다고 했습니다. 그가 다음날 일본으로 돌아간다고 하기에 그의 집으로 보내주겠다고 했더니, 이름과 주소를 적어주었습니다. 그이가 바로 야스유키 미야자키 씨였습니다. 쉽게 생각했었지만 그 책은 절판이 되어 구하기가 쉽지 않았습니다. 수소문 끝에 인터넷 중고 서점에서 한 권을 구해 미야자키 씨에게 보내고나니 대단한 일을 한 것처럼 뿌듯했습니다.


이 칼럼은 미야자키 씨에게 보내는 편지 형식이지만, 서두에는 추석 전날 폭우에 호수가 된 광화문 거리 얘기와 그 폭우 속에 앉아 오롯이 물투성이가 된 세종대왕의 얘기를 하고 있습니다. 광화문에 줄지어 서있던 나이든 은행나무들과 플라타너스들이 있었다면 비가 많이 왔다 해도 호수가 되는 일은 면할 수 있었을 거라는 생각이 듭니다. 더구나 한글을 창제한 세종 임금이 학자들을 시켜 지은 용비어천가에서 제일 잘 알려진 구절이 "뿌리 깊은 나무는 바람에 흔들리지 않고..."인데, 뿌리 깊은 나무들 뽑혀나간 곳에 앉아 계시니 참 아이러니합니다.


아무튼 그 책 한 권 덕에 미야자키 씨와 이메일을 몇 차례 주고 받았고, 다음에 한국에 다시 오면 만나기로 했습니다. 게다가 책을 받은 미아쟈키 씨가 시셰이도 샴푸와 린스, 일본 전통 종이로 만든 컵 받침까지 보내주는 바람에 당혹스럽고도 고마웠습니다. 그 샴푸와 린스는 추석날 어머니에게 갖다 드리고 컵 받침은 아우와 나누었습니다.


초면의 외국인에게 책을 구해주겠다고 나섰던 것은, 우리 시조의 영역본을 찾는 외국인은 있는데 그에게 줄 영역본이 없다는 사실이 부끄러웠기 때문입니다. 광화문 광장 같은 것을 만드는 데 쏟아부은 돈의 몇 백분의 일만 우리 문학 번역에 지원했으면, 이미 오래 전에 노벨문학상 수상자도 나왔을 것입니다.