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A poet and a thief

Posted July. 15, 2022 08:07,   

Updated July. 15, 2022 08:07


A band of thieves broke into a boat where a poet stayed overnight. The leader of the thieves, who confirmed the identity of the poet, came up with a rather unanticipated response: “If you are really Li Seop, who served the erudite of Taixue, I know you well for your poems; offer me a piece of your poem, instead of valuables or treasures, and that would be enough.” To this awkward demand, the poet wrote this poem on the spot. Even a thief has heard of the poet’s name, and it is of no use for the poet to hide and live as a recluse. The poet laments that half of the world is already on the same side with the thieves, so there is no need for him to remain aloof from others and live in solitude.

Although the thieves who openly loot treasures are condemnable, the poet maintains a graceful manner. Rather than describing them as thieves, the poet treats these looters with respect, calling them “bandits of the green forest,” the term often used to refer to the Robin Hood-like righteous outlaw. Furthermore, the poet intuits a feeling of solidarity with the thieves by saying, “Half of the world is like you.” It is doubtful whether the poet, whose trace of the life is not well-known and who left only 10 pieces of poems, was respected by the leader of the thieves, but the record shows that the thieves, satisfied with the poem, treated the poet courteously with meat and drinks.

Along with the comical effect arising from an awkward mismatch of the thief and a poem, this poem conceals another delicacy to enjoy – a satire. It is clear that the blade of irony targets not the thieves who know how to appreciate the poetry but the half of the world that is no different from the thieves.