The Peak
(절정)

poem by
Yi Yuk-sa (이육사)
year of publication
1940
poetry collection
Yuk-sa Poetry Collection (육사 시집), 1946
절정
The Peak

매운 계절의 채찍에 갈겨
Whip-lashed by the stinging season
마침내 북방으로 휩쓸려 오다
I end up thrown to the far north at last

하늘도 그만 지쳐 끝난 고원
As even the sky fades from exhaustion
서릿발 칼날진 그 위에 서다
I am on the high plain's razor sharp frost

어데다 무릎을 꿇어야 하나?
Where should I kneel my knees down?
한 발 재겨 디딜 곳조차 없다
There's not even room to get a foot in

이러매 눈 감아 생각해 볼밖에
This makes me close my eyes and think
겨울은 강철로 된 무지갠가 보다
How winter is a rainbow of hardened steel
절정

매운 계절의 채찍에 갈겨
마침내 북방으로 휩쓸려 오다

하늘도 그만 지쳐 끝난 고원
서릿발 칼날진 그 위에 서다

어데다 무릎을 꿇어야 하나?
한 발 재겨 디딜 곳조차 없다

이러매 눈 감아 생각해 볼밖에
겨울은 강철로 된 무지갠가 보다

The Peak

Whip-lashed by the stinging season
I end up thrown to the far north at last

As even the sky fades from exhaustion
I am on the high plain's razor sharp frost

Where should I kneel my knees down?
There's not even room to get a foot in

This makes me close my eyes and think
How winter is a rainbow of hardened steel
snow covered field
photo by invisiblepower from pexels.com

Yi Yuk-sa (이육사) is known for his resistance against the occupying Japanese authorities. While there were many intellectuals who resisted and fought, they were more an exception than norm if you take a critical look. It is not surprising either because, if you think about it, a powerful imperial state like Japan before the second world war was not something you could easily resolve to go against. Anyone doing that must have felt like a tiny egg before a towering boulder. So most people had no choice but to go with the reigning forces of the time, accepting it as destiny, even if they didn't condone or support the imperialists. There were even those who took it as an opportunity for personal gains and became the frontmen for the occupiers, which is something hard to accept but that is how the mass is.

Yi Yuk-sa was on the opposite end of it. He fought all his life with remarkable consistency. It appears he never wavered until the end, and his resistance didn't merely consist of giving moral support but pretty much ran the whole gamut of it short of actually firing shots at the Japanese troops. He is said to have been arrested and jailed seventeen times for subversive activities, and when he was not he was often an operative working with the resistance groups in what was then Manchuria as well as China. The Peak must have been written in his later years when he had to flee to the north to escape the hands of the Japanese hot on his tail. The poem reads like a short journal entry about the dire circumstances. A man of iron will, he transcended the limits of everyman, demonstrating the fortitude of a fighter for the just cause in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposing forces. His name lives on in the body of works that recorded his trials and tribulations, of which The Peak is one fine example.

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Yi Yuk-sa (이육사)

Respectfully remembered activist intellectual who dedicated his life for indepence and betterment of Korea at a time when it was at the mercy of imperialism.

aritist
Yi Yuk-sa (이육사, 李陸史), poet and activist
birth name
Yi Won-rok (이원록, 李源祿)
nationality
Korea
born
May 18, 1904, in Andong, Korea (경상북도 안동군)
died
January 16, 1944, in Beijing, China
genre
lyric poetry, with political overtones
major works
The Wilderness (광야)
Green Grapes (청포도)
The Peak (절정)
Twilight (황혼)
Tall Tree (교목)
Plantain (파초)
The Sea's Heart (바다의 마음)
Flower (꽃)