Red sun hanging on the shoulder of the western hill
Language: Korean
Poet: Kim Sowohl
Translator: Sekyo Nam Haines
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Red sun hanging on the shoulder of the western hill

Four poems by Kim Sowohl translated by Sekyo Nam Haines

Kim Sowohl (1902–1934) belongs to the first generation of modern poets of the early 20th century and remains one of the most beloved poets in Korea today. Born in 1902 in North Pyong’an province in Korea, Sowohl began writing poetry at age 16.

Sowohl came of age during the most tragic period in Korean history, the Japanese occupation (1910–1945). The “new literature movement,” which began at the end of 19th century, blossomed during this period. Solely using the Korean alphabet, Hangeul, instead of classical Chinese characters, this literature became a symbol of patriotic thinking: it was concerned with safeguarding vernacular expressions and national identity in response to the occupation. Sowohl was among many poets who experimented with integrating traditional folk rhythms to find a new poetic meter. He succeeded in refining this new poetic genre, and is thus considered to be a founder of Korean modern poetry.

In 1923, when forty of his poems were published in leading literary journals, he was hailed as a sensitive and brilliant poet. Azalea Flower, a collection of 127 poems, was published in 1925. Sowohl was prolific throughout his mid-20s, but as his financial situation deteriorated he ceased writing and committed suicide at the age of 32. In 1939, five years after his death, Poetry of Kim SoWohl, was published—a collection of 80 poems that secured his establishment in the canon of Korean modern poetry. Many of his poems were later set to music and are still sung widely in Korea.

Sekyo Nam Haines, born and raised in South Korea, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1973 as a registered nurse. She studied American literature and writing at the Goddard College ADP and poetry with the late Ottone M. Riccio in Boston, MA. Her poems have appeared in the anthologies Do Not Give Me Things Unbroken, Unlocking The Poem, and Beyond Words; and in the poetry journal Off the Coast. Her translations of Korean poetry have appeared in The Harvard Review and The Seventh Quarry Poetry Magazine in Wales, the Brooklyn Rail, Adelaide Magazine, Ezra (forthcoming), and Mass Review (forthcoming). Her translation of “Dawn” by Kim Sowohl was chosen by the Word/Song Project and was composed into four different art-song compositions. These compositions have been performed at the MFA Boston, Longy School of Music in Cambridge, and Emmanuel College in Boston, accompanied by a discussion with the composers, translator, and audience. Sekyo lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her family.

진달래 꽃

나 보기가 역겨워
가실 때에는
말없이 고이 보내 드리우리다

영변에 약산
진달래 꽃
아름따다 가실 길에 뿌리우리다

가시는 걸음걸음

놓인 그 꽃을
사뿐히 즈려 밟고 가시옵소서

나 보기가 역겨워

가실 때에는
죽어도 아니 눈물 흘리우리다.

Azalea

Weary of looking at me
when you leave,
I will let you go gently without a word.

Yak-Mountain in Youngbyon—
the azalea blossoms—
I will gather armfuls and spread them on your way.

Step after step,
on the petals that lie before you,

tread softly as you go.

Weary of looking at me,

when you leave,

even though I die of sadness, I will not let my tears fall.

초혼

산산이 부서진 이름이여 !

허공중에 헤어진 이름이여 !

불러도 주인 없는 이름이여 !
부르다가 내가 죽을 이름이여 !

심중에 남아 있는 말 한마디는

끝끝내 마자하지 못하였구나.
사랑하던 그 사람이여 !
사랑하던 그 사람이여 !

붉은 해는 서산 마루에 걸리었다.

사슴의 무리도 슬피 운다.
떨어져 나가 앉은 산위에서
나는 그대의 이름을 부르노라.

설움에 겹도록 부르노라.
설움에 겹도록 부르노라.
부르는 소리는 비껴가지만
하늘과 땅 사이가 너무 넓구나.

선 채로 이 자리에 돌이 되어도

부르다가 내가 죽을 이름이여 !
사랑하던 그 사람이여 !
사랑하던 그 사람이여 !

Summoning Back the Soul

Shattered to pieces is this name!

Scattered into an empty sky is this name!

I call out, yet, ownerless is this name!
I will die calling this name!

The words I held, deep in my heart,

remained unspoken to the end.
O! Beloved one!
O! Beloved one!

Red sun hanging on the shoulder of the western hill,

and even the herds of deer are crying in sorrow—
I stand on the far-way hill,
calling the beloved’s name.

Grief-stricken, I call!
Grief-stricken, I call!
The sound of my calling goes aslant
in the vast distance between heaven and earth.

Standing here, even if I turn to stone,

I will die calling this name!
O! Beloved one!
O! Beloved one!

예전엔 미처 몰랐어요

봄 가을 없이 밤마다 돋는 달도

<예전엔 미처 몰랐어요>

이렇게 사무치게 그리울 줄도

<예전엔 미처 몰랐어요>

달이 암만 밝아도 쳐다볼 줄을

<예전엔 미쳐 몰랐어요>

이제금 저 달이 설음인 줄은

<예전엔 미처 몰랐어요>

Had I Known Before

Spring, autumn, every night the rising moon—

Had I known before!

That I would yearn for it so achingly—

Had I known before!

To look at the moon that shines so brightly—

Had I known before!

Now, this moon is my sorrow—

O, Had I known before!

자나 깨나 앉으나 서나

자나 깨나 앉으나 서나

그림자 같은 벗 하나이 내게 있었읍니다.

그러나, 우리는 얼마나 많은 세월을

쓸데없는 괴로움으로만 보내었겠읍니까 !

오늘은 또 다시,당신의 가슴 속, 속 모를 곳을

울면서 나는 휘저어 버리고 떠납니다그려.

허수한 맘, 둘 곳 없는 심사에 쓰라린 가슴은

그것이 사랑, 사랑이던 줄이 아니도 잊힙니다.

Whether I Was Asleep, Awake, Sitting, or Standing

Whether I was asleep, awake, sitting, or standing,

I had a friend who was like my shadow.

And yet, how many years did we spend ourselves

in heedless anguish!

Today, once again, I stir up your heart deep,

to that unknowable place, as I depart in tears.

This restless mind, this sore-homeless heart,

that is love, it was love, isn’t able to forget.