Translated by Chae-Pyong Song
The Entrance of Seonun Temple by Seo Jung-ju
To the gully of Seonun Temple
I went to see camellias blooming.
But it was too early for them;
Like the woman’s folk song
drifting from the rice-wine pub
only last year’s are still left
in as hoarse a voice as hers.
선운사 동구(洞口)/ 서 정 주
선운사 동백꽃을 보러 갔더니
동백꽃은 아직 일러 피지 않았고
막걸릿집 여자의 육자배기 가락에
작년 것만 시방도 남았습니다.
그것도 목이 쉬어 남았습니다.
(Darcy Brandel and Melanie Steyn read the earlier versions of this translation.)
Seo Jeong-ju (1915 – 2000) was born in Gochang, Jeollabuk-do. He is considered the founding father of modern Korean poetry. Under the pen name Midang, he published at least 15 collections of poetry. He taught Korean literature at Chosun University, among others. He was also nominated five times for the Nobel Prize in literature. His grandmother’s stories and his interest in Buddhism had a strong influence upon his writing. His works have been translated into a number of languages, including English, French, Spanish and German.