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Korean Poem

Posted: February 15th, 2010 12:15 pm
by trutherous
I don't have a favorite author but recently I have memorized this Korean poem and I find it quite inspiring. I fully understand its meaning but perhaps there is someone who would dare try translating it for us...

도종환, <담쟁이>-

저것은 벽

어쩔 수 없는 벽이라고 우리가 느낄 때


담쟁이는 말없이 그 벽을 오른다.

물 한 방울 없고 씨앗 한 톨 살아남을 수 없는

저것은 절망의 벽이라고 말할 때

담쟁이는 서두르지 않고 앞으로 나아간다.

한뼘이라도 꼭 여럿이 함께 손을 잡고 올라간다.

푸르게 절망을 다 덮을 때까지

바로 그 절망을 다잡고 놓지 않는다.

저것은 넘을 수 없는 벽이라고

고개를 떨구고 있을 때

담쟁이 잎 하나는 담쟁이 잎 수천 개를 이끌고

결국 그 벽을 넘는다.


Posted: February 9th, 2011 11:43 am
by alinilinguini1953
I think I will take your challenge...I'm barely learning Korean and I like writing poems. They are really simple though. I hope to get as good at writing poems in Korean, like I am in English. I will take a look at this, and get back to you. :D

Posted: February 9th, 2011 12:25 pm
by manyakumi
"절망을 다잡고 놓지 않는다"

정말 멋진 시입니다. :)
많은 분들이 도전해 보셨으면 좋겠네요. ^^


Hello everyone~~

Posted: February 9th, 2011 2:36 pm
by timandyou
저는 명단에서 빼 주십시요~~ ^^ :wink:
Thank trutherous for the poem...
Thank alinilinguini1953 for taking the challenge...
Thank manyakumi for encouraging others...
Tim 8)

My translation

Posted: May 30th, 2011 5:10 am
by jaesun
Since no ones put one in yet, here is my attempt.

First, a sort of line by line translation:

도종환, <담쟁이>- Do Jonghwan <Ivy>

저것은 벽 That wall
어쩔 수 없는 벽이라고 우리가 느낄 때 While we feel the wall is hopeless
그때 Then
담쟁이는 말없이 그 벽을 오른다. Ivy wordlessly climbs the wall.
물 한 방울 없고 씨앗 한 톨 살아남을 수 없는 Not a single drop of water not a seed can survive
저것은 절망의 벽이라고 말할 때 While we call it the wall of despair
담쟁이는 서두르지 않고 앞으로 나아간다. Ivy proceeds steadily.
한뼘이라도 꼭 여럿이 함께 손을 잡고 올라간다. By handspans, many joining hands climb up.
푸르게 절망을 다 덮을 때까지 Until all despair is covered in green
바로 그 절망을 다잡고 놓지 않는다. Not giving in to that despair.
저것은 넘을 수 없는 벽이라고 That wall we say can’t be exceeded
고개를 떨구고 있을 때 While we hang our head
담쟁이 잎 하나는 담쟁이 잎 수천 개를 이끌고 Ivy sending out thousands of little leaves
결국 그 벽을 넘는다. Goes over the wall.

Next I cut out some of the redundancy, to get it into some kind of meter in English:

That wall.
While we feel hopeless
Ivy wordlessly climbs up.

There’s not a drop of water, not a seed can survive.
While we choose despair
Ivy proceeds steadily.

By handspans, joining hands, climbing up,
Not giving in until all despair is covered in green.
That wall we say can’t be surpassed,
while we hang our head
Ivy sprouting myriad leaves

Goes over the wall.

(Translation by Jason)

Criticism, ideas, comments welcome.

Posted: May 30th, 2011 5:24 pm
by trutherous
jaesun - thanks for the input --good job. --the forums here move mostly at a glacial pace -- I first posted that in 2010

When it comes to poems a matching translation is always an impossibility. The best we can hope for is an attempt to convey the feel and meaning as we perceive it.

Are there really any rules when it comes to something as multilevel poetry? Anyway, here was my feeble attempt (I had to dig this out of an older study notebook) :)


There is a wall
At times we feel it is a wall about which nothing can be done
Just then
Ivy begins its silent ascent

With nary a drop of water nor space to nourish seed
When we call that wall despair
Ivy moves forward, unhurried, undaunted
A hands breadth at a time, hand in hand, climbing together
Taking hold, refusing to release
Until the despair is shrouded completely in green

When heads hang low acknowledging
"That wall is insurmountable"
A single ivy leaf leads thousands
And in the end the wall is overrun

Posted: May 30th, 2011 9:26 pm
by jaesun
Hi trutherous

I see now that your original post is kinda old. I had noticed the replies from February of this year and just assumed the thread started then. :)

Thanks for posting your translation. I liked it, especially the last line. The meter that I imposed, that was just me- my concrete idea of how poems are. I realize how my mind runs in its own conventional way and yet, out of comfort, still let it confine me. That to say, perhaps your style better suits the poem.

I agree that translating is impossible- in the sense of actually recreating the same poem, except in English (and yet, I keep trying to do it). Though maybe, if enough people were to join in, each contributing some alternative word, bringing out some little feature of the original...

Anyway, I enjoy Korean poetry. If you, or anyone are interested in a discussion I can post some of the poems I've encountered.