Toegye 退溪 Yi Hwang 李滉 (1501-1570) was a moralistic philosopher in the Joseon Dynasty era. His life was recorded in his chronology, books of his personal history, and collections of his words and deeds in detail. His learning attitude, educational method, practicing etiquette, friendship with his students are well written in the memoirs recorded by his disciples. Yi Hwang as a moralistic philosopher wrote 2,330 poems. All his poems, which were quite diverse in type, were included in his anthology. They were diverse in forms, contents, and topics. The mainstreams of his poetry were poems about birds, flowers, moon, trees, etc. (詠物詩), poems about plum blossoms (梅花詩), poems reciting reason (說理詩), responding poems (和答詩), extempore poems (卽事詩), poems reciting inner-most thoughts (詠懷詩). Poems attached to pictures (題畵詩), poems mourning death (輓詩), poems in which one line is composed of four letters (四言詩), poems in which one line is composed of six letters (六言詩), poems reciting dreams (醉夢詩), social poems (社會詩), patriotic poems (憂國詩), history telling poems (詠史詩), journey poems (紀行詩), and song poems (樂府詩) are also important, although they were partial. Due to the diverse types, the research on them has been also diverse thus far. The origin and background of his poems are moral philosophy. Thus, the poems of Yi Hwang had kept the moralistic character. Owing to its moralistic character, they showed less inspiration and romantic aspects. Instead, they emphasized morals, studying, mind purification, and moral training. Toegye combined gaining knowledge by the study of things to his works. Yi Hwang himself said, “As my poems are stern and lofty, people do not like them.” He did not want to only pursue what people liked, namely, their interest and enjoyment. Reading the poems written by his disciples, he said that poems without morals and studying were not good poems despite beautiful expressions and distinguished thoughts. When composing poems about plum blossoms (梅花詩), poems about birds, flowers, moon, trees, etc. (詠物詩), relating one’s thoughts poems (詠懷詩), Yi Hwang recited his personal feeling without intention to form a moralistic factor. But the moralistic factor was naturally reflected in many poems. The moralistic aspects varied in each poem. The concentration of implied moral philosophy varied, depending on the materials or theme. It was morally deep in the poem that recited the theme of practicing Dohak (道學) or that clarified the reason for things. On the contrary, it was morally shallow in the poems with specific objectives such as journey poems (紀行詩) or history telling poems (詠史詩). In the poems written to poetically describe the ethical factor, the words or phrases of sages were used as poetic words. This utilization and poetic shaping enable readers to well understand the meanings of poems in breadth and depth. Therefore, unlike other poetry, Toegye s poems had moralistic elements at the base. They had an emotional side of enjoying and appreciating nature, but at the same time, it had a rational side that does not leave Dohak. However, the level of their moralistic shape appeared differently for each of his works.
2. Realities and Types of Toegye’s poems
3. Character of Dohak (Moral Philosophy, 道學) in Toegye’s poems
4. Moralistic shape of Toegye’s poems