(translated from the Korean by geul)
Before the movie starts we
all stand up and listen to the national anthem.
For purple mountain majesties
In Eursukdo forming a fixed flock
the white birds lifting off from the field of reeds
squawk amongst themselves
snicker amongst themselves.
In first, second, third line formation they
pull off their world from this world and
shouldering it, fly off somewhere outside this world.
If only we too could together
in a great formation
pull off a world and shouldering it
fly off somewhere outside this world.
But above the fruited plain
as God sheds his grace on each
each sits down in his seat
This poem presents a translation challenge because of its use of portions of the Korean national anthem in its lines for sarcastic effect. The effect is lost if the reader does not know the anthem in the way a native of the country does. What I did was to replace the lines of the Korean national anthem with some lines of “America the Beautiful,” a patriotic American song, so that at least American readers will appreciate the sarcasm. (I apologize to readers from other countries for my partiality.) Of course it’s bizarre to have these lines appear in a Korean poem, especially one where a Korean place name appears and where there is a specific historical Korean scenerio described. This scenerio, rising for the national anthem before a movie begins in a theater to show respect for the country, takes place during the dictatorship period. It seems the speaker is describing some images of birds taking off that are shown on the screen while the national anthem is being played. The speaker envies the freedom of these birds as compared to the lack thereof experienced by the theater audience.