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生涯 | 생애 | Life

Translated from Hanja (Old Korean) to Hangul (modern Korean) and then English

This piece is part of the Wine notebook, which features original art by Su Yu-Xin.

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English Versions1




생애를 오직 문가의 흰 구름만 보니
이 남쪽 마을에 사는 벼슬 없는 한 선비를 아노라
해가 저물고 하늘이 차가운데 돌아갈 길 멀기만 하니
우선 문득 독에 빚은 술에 빠지고자 한다


Only white clouds at the door watch the entire life
Of a nameless thinker2 I know is from here
At sunset, it is cold and the way back home long
I’d first indulge myself in a barrel of wine


None but clouds are here to watch
This nameless life I know
At sundown, home is far away
First I’m to get drunk senseless

1 In order to reflect Korea’s interesting semi-bilingual history, I first translated the original poem (written originally in Chinese characters) into modern Korean then into English. For the first version, I kept the syllable differences / consistency thereof between lines intact, while focusing on articulate interpretation. For the second, I preserved the original syllable count to achieve a more direct, literal translation.

2 “This nameless thinker” is typically interpreted as Kim herself. Kim wrote many poems in which she deplored the societal constraints that kept her from her ambition.