A Sijo, by Hwang Jini

A Sijo
by Hwang Jini

Translated by Robert Grotjohn

청산리(靑山裏) 벽계수(碧溪水)야 수 이 감을 자랑 마라.

일도창해(一到蒼海) 하면 돌아오기 어려우니

명월(明月)이 만공산(滿空山)하니 쉬어간들 어떠리.

Clear Stream, don’t feel so proud in your running.

Once you flow into the blue ocean, it will be hard to return.

Why not rest here, where the Bright Moon fills the empty mountains?

Hwang Jini was a gisaeng, a courtesan skilled in the arts of music, dance, and poetry, who lived in the first half of the 16th century during the Chosun dynasty. She is well known for her sijo, a Korean verse form of three lines. Her gisaeng name was Myeong-wol (명월/ 明月), “Bright Moon,” so the last line is an invitation to enjoy more than the beauty of nature. That is not the only pun on a name, however. Byeok Kye Su was an aristocrat whose name means “clear stream”(벽계수 / 碧溪水). I have capitalized those translations to suggest that they refer to personal names as well as parts of nature.

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