On September 10, 1910, in response to the Japanese annexation of Korea, Chosŏn scholar Maech'ŏn Hwang Hyŏn
penned four verses of "Poems 詩 on Ending 絶 Life 命 절명수" and a final statement 유서, then committed suicide by opium overdose.
亂離滾到白頭年, Mid confusion and dificulty, I rushed into my white-haired years;
幾合捐生却末然. Several times I decided to end my life, but still in the end, remain here.
今日眞成無可奈, This day truly things have changed, there is nothing that can be done;
輝輝風燭照蒼天. Buffetted by the wind, a dazzling candle illuminates the blue heavens.
妖氛掩峠帝星移, Bewitching vapors cover the peak--the emperor's star has shifted;
九闕沈沈晝漏遲. The nine-layered gates of the palace are deep, daylight spills in slowly,
詔勅從今無復有, Royal proclaimations and edicts from now will not be had again;
琳琅一紙淚千絲. A bejeweled page: a thousand streams of tears.
☞ 「妖氛掩峠」, 一曰: 「妖氛唵翳」Bewitching vapors cover and screen.
鳥獸哀鳴海岳嚬, Birds and beasts sadly cry, seas and marchmounts grimace,
槿花世界已沈淪. The generation of the Rose of Sharon has already sunk.
秋燈掩卷懷千古, Under an autumn lamp, I close the scrolls and consider times of old--
難作人間識字人. It is difficult to be a man of letters in the world of man.
曾無支廈半椽功, I have never had even half of a hall's rafter worth of merit
只是成仁不是忠. I've only achieved humaneness, not loyalty.
止竟僅能追尹穀, In the end I'm only able to follow Yĭn Gŭ,＊
當時愧不躡陳東. At the same time ashamed not to have measured up to Chén Dōng.§
*) Yĭn Gŭ: A scholar/statesman of the Song Dynasty who was killed along with his family when the Mongolians invaded.
§) Chén Dōng: A scholar/statesman of the Song Dynasty who submitted a note of reomonstrance to the emperor that the state needed more discipline, thereby incurring the wrath of the emperor and leading to his own execution.
"나는 사실 죽을 의무가 없다. 난 국가의 봉록을 먹는 신하였던 적이 없다. 나의 죽음은 다만 인(仁)을 이루고자 할 뿐 충(忠)은 아니다. 그러나 나라가 선비 기르기 오백년인데, 나라가 망하는 날 한 사람 죽는 자 없다면 어찌 통탄스럽지 않으랴. 내 위로는 하늘이 내린 도리를 저버리지 않았고, 아래로는 평소 읽었던 책을 저버리지 않는다면, 어둠 속에 길이 잠들어서도 참으로 통쾌함을 느끼리라.
In fact, I have no duty to die. I have never been a government official, subsisting off of a salary from the state. My death is only to accomplish humanity 仁, it is not out of loyalty 忠. However, the state has been raising up scholars for 500 years. Would it not be lamentable if not even one person died on the day that the state fell into ruin? Provided I did not act contrary to the way that heaven above bestowed, or act in violation of the books below, that I habitually read, my consolation will be that I feel truly pleased, though I fall into a long slumber in the dark."
Unfortunately the Sanchon Hunjang could not find the 한문 original of his 유서.