Tag Archives: 서정주

Like the wind going away after meeting the water lily by Seo Jeong-Ju (1915-2000)

(translated from the Korean by geul)


not very disappointed
just somewhat disappointed,*


it’s a parting,
not a forever parting
a parting with plans to meet again
in our next life,


not a wind
that’s on its way to meet
the water lily
but a wind taking its leave…


not a wind that’s going away
after meeting a few days before
but like a wind that’s going away
after meeting several seasons before…


poem in Korean

The Bride by Seo Jeong-ju


(translated from the Korean by geul)



The bride, in an emerald jeogori* and crimson skirt, with only her hair undone, was yet sitting up with the groom on their wedding night when the groom suddenly had to pee and got his clothes caught on the door hinge when he started up and ran out. The groom hastily concluded that his bride was lascivious and couldn’t wait and was grabbing him from behind; thinking only this he left without turning around to look.

Having left a torn piece of his clothing caught on the door hinge, he peed, and afterwards, deciding it won’t do, ran away.

Then forty or fifty years passed and unexpected business caused him to pass by the bride’s house, and out of curiosity he opened the door and looked into the room: the bride was still sitting just as before with only her hair undone just like on their wedding night, in her emerald jeogori and crimson skirt.

Taking pity he patted her shoulder and it was then the bride turned into stinging ash and fell down with a poof.

Fell down into emerald and crimson ash.



**jeogori – the separate top part of the traditional Korean dress

original poem in Korean

Winter Sky by Seo Jeong-ju (동천, 서정주)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

When I washed clear with a thousand nights’ dream
the lovely brow of my beloved
and planted it in the sky
a fierce bird flying in coldest winter
gesturing in recognition
veers as it passes

original Korean

Beside a Chrysanthemum by Seo Jeong-ju

(translated from the Korean by geul)


For a single chrysanthemum to blossom
the owl must’ve cried like that
since spring

For a single chrysanthemum to blossom
the thunder too must have cried like that
inside the inky clouds

Oh  flower, you who look like my elder sister,
standing before a mirror, returned now from
the far-flung alleys of her youth when
regret and longing wrung her heart

So that your yellow petals open,
last night, the first frost must’ve fallen like that
and to me sleep not come

see original Korean –>국화 옆에서

Days of Blue by Seo Jeong-ju

(translated by geul from the Korean)

On days of blinding blue

Let’s miss the people that we miss.


There there that place of autumn flowering

Where Green, tuckered – the leaves turn


So what if it snows

So what if spring returns


If I die and you live!

If you die and I live?


On days of blinding blue

Let’s miss the people that we miss.

* Line-end punctuation may not be correct.  I was not able to find an authoritative edition of the original poem.

Self-portrait by Seo Jeong-ju (So Chong-ju)

(translated from the Korean by geul)

Pa was a servant. The night deepened, still he didn’t come.

Only standing was Grandmother, old as onion roots, and one flowering ***date tree.

Though, Ma, moon-bellied, said she craved just one green apricot…

Earthwall windblock, under the oil lamplight

Mother’s son with the blackened nails

Was it the year of the Gabo Reform? Grandfather who said I’m not ***coming back from the sea

Whose thick head of hair

And those big eyes they say I take after.


What’s brought me up these twenty-three years is eight-tenths the wind.

The world’s just shameful the more I look.

While some read a felon in my eyes and

Others read a fool on my lips

I won’t repent a thing.


On any morning splendidly springing to

In poetry’s dew beading my forehead

Always a few drops of blood mixed in

Be it sunshine or shadow tongue lolling out

Like a sick dog, panting have I come.


original poem in Korean

Gabo Reform

a different translation

The Leper by Seo Jeong-ju

(translated from the Korean by geul)


Sun and sky
grieved the leper so

when the moon rose over the barley field
he ate a baby

and all night long cried a cry, red like a flower


*According to Korean folklore,  leprosy could be cured by eating the liver of a child.