IN THE days of King Se-jong students of the Confucian College were having a picnic to celebrate the Spring Festival. They met in a wood to the north of the college, near a beautiful spring of water, and were drinking and feasting the night through. While they were thus enjoying themselves the rooms of the college were left deserted. One student from the country, a backwoodsman in his way, who was of no account to others, thought that while the rest went away to enjoy themselves some one ought to stay behind to guard the sacred precincts of the temple; so he decided that he would forgo the pleasures of the picnic, stay behind and watch.
The King at that time sent a eunuch to the college to see how many of the students had remained on guard. The eunuch returned, saying that all had gone off on the picnic, except one man, a raw countryman, who was in sole charge. The King at once sent for the man, asking him to come just as he was in his common clothes.
On his arrival his Majesty asked, "When all have gone off for a gay time, why is it that you remain alone?"
He replied, "I, too, would like to have gone, but to leave the sacred temple wholly deserted did not seem to me right, so I stayed."
The King was greatly pleased with this reply, and asked again, "Do you know how to write verses?"
The reply was, "I know only very little about it."
The King then said, "I have one-half of a verse here which runs thus--
'After the rains the mountains weep.'
You write me a mate for this line to go with it."
At once the student replied--
"Before the wind the grass is tipsy."
The King, delighted, praised him for his skill and made him a special graduate on the spot, gave him his diploma, flowers for his hat, and issued a proclamation saying that he had passed the Al-song Examination. At once he ordered for him the head-gear, the red coat, a horse to ride on, two boys to go before, flute-players and harpers, saying, "Go now to the picnic-party and show yourself."
While the picnickers were thus engaged, suddenly they heard the sound of flutes and harps, and they questioned as to what it could mean. This was not the time for new graduates to go abroad. While they looked, behold, here came a victorious candidate, dressed in ceremonial robes, heralded by boys, and riding on the King's palfrey, to greet them. On closer view they saw that it was the uncouth countryman whom they had left behind at the Temple. They asked what it meant, and then learned, to their amazement, that the King had so honoured him. The company, in consternation and surprise, broke up and returned home at once.
This special graduate became later, through the favour of the King, a great and noted man.