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Manoa 14.2 (2002-2003) 88-89
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Does Spring Come to Stolen Fields
The land is no longer our own.
Does spring come just the same
to the stolen fields?
On the narrow path between the rice fields
where blue sky and green fields meet and touch,
winds whisper to me, urging me forward.
A lark trills in the clouds
like a young girl singing behind the hedge.
O ripening barley fields, your long hair
is heavy after the night's rain.
Lightheaded, I walk
lightly, shrugging my shoulders, almost
dancing to music, the fields are humming—
the field where violets grow, the field
where once I watched a girl planting rice, her hair
blue-black and shining—
a scythe in my hands, I want
to stamp on this soil, soft as a plump breast,
I want to be working the earth and streaming with sweat.
What am I looking for? Soul,
my blind soul, endlessly darting
like children at play by the river,
answer me: where am I going?
Filled with the odor of grass, compounded
of green laughter and green sorrow,
limping along, I walk all day, as if possessed
by the spring devil:
for these are stolen fields, and our spring is stolen. [End Page 88]
Born in 1900, Yi Sang-hwa participated in the March 1, 1919, independence demonstration and in subsequent student protests. In 1923, he went to Japan to study literature. Returning to Korea a year later, he was arrested and charged with raising funds for anti-Japanese groups. He was imprisoned several more times, and in 1943 he died of cancer.
Written in 1926, "Does Spring Come to Stolen Fields" laments the occupation of Korea by the Japanese and asserts that they stole not only the land but the beauty and youthful passion of springtime itself.
Translation by Peter H. Lee