by Winnie Khaw
A creative story on an empire of China's magnificence and decadence, a rebellious then subdued Korea divided into three kingdoms, and a united Japan somewhat more remote from the others, highly influenced by China's culture but looking inward until it begins to harbor imperialistic ambitions.
... of the firmament embroiled with
the deep, from an undistinguished
medley came strains calamitous and
wailing, and the once whole
separated into yin and yang, male
Of one dead form, which bore
imprinted all features of nature,
to mutative shapes drawn into
galling service, that of life
It is nearly full winter. HANEUL is currently the prince of a "Korean" kingdom. After a failed hunt chasing a fox, and very bored, HANEUL leaves his party to go off alone. Then he encounters a mysterious woman.
On a languid day of dalliance and
raillery among courtiers after a
hunt, I wearily beat the gourd of
ennui and left them, seeking better
Is there no end to this slack
Enter Fox Spirit.
Princely one, has the usual dreary
bevy, whom you so carelessly left
in sleepy strain, soured your
mouth? Did not the shining blanched
fur of the poor hunted fox,
affrighted from gambol and frisk,
entice you on?
A dog which has followed HANEUL growls menacingly at Fox
Spirit and makes to leap at her, and she shies away. HANEUL
sharply reprimands the dog and sends it whimpering back.
O goddess, come you as a visitation
of death, or a deceitful vision of
fatigue? For now, having perceived
beauty of such freshness as to
shame life in its youth, I trace
gladly your steps. Not merely
flowers or willows in the golden
moon, nor gleaming white pearl, but
flaming ruby and flashing diamond.
For fire cannot vie in purity with
the charms of the glorious
spectacle, a figure with lissome
step, I behold before me.
Dissipate the first gravid thoughts
pondered in so erratic a strain.
Though I speak in libidinous
lewdness, pray forgive me; you are
as a robe richly adorned of a
hundred hawks worked in gold, no
mere fragrance of flowers, and I am
of addled mind, a dunce, at the
Wherefore do you feel a stranger,
greeting with conventional
Lest you believe me a loose rake,
dissolute debauchee, with malignity
and perversity as my design--
Worry not; if you are so, I join in
lust as a sybarite. Let
unprincipled license rise wanton.
Bend inclination where it will.
Fox Spirit sheds most of her many layers of loose white
clothing, each falling sensuously to the ground, her amber
eyes intent on him.
A beauteous white-feathered shower
of crystal, descended from the
clouds in stolen fleece!
Haneul takes her in his arms, and things ensue in the usual
manner of a man and woman together.
So long I have journeyed a
poverty-stricken fugitive seeking
shelter, and know rest only in the
hollow of your hands. With you,
clad in frost and snow alike, I
would stray an outcast to earth's
remotest limits, wherever
far-roaming wanders convey.
I have subjugated you, Prince
Haneul, as a willing victim, though
you would have made me prey to your
swords and spears. 'Tis but a game
to me, as 'twas for you, one that I
won. Here indeed desire bridles
wisdom's rein. The more fools men!
Dim morn of the skies hastens on in
enfeebled silver beams to weightier
gold; winter slumber beckons, and I
tarry no longer with this captive
quarry, nor betray scant regard.
All rights reserved.
The title Ink Darkly the Painted Seasons has a few implied meanings and connotations. First, it refers to how outlining (death) defines a picture (life). Second, the seasons refer to the traditional passage of a person's life, from spring to summer, autumn, and finally winter. I thought of the ukiyo-e paintings and woodblocks in Japanese culture, which stand for fleeting beauty separate from the mundane world, evanescent, impermanent.
Act 1, scene 02: Affair in the Woods