Spring Days Are Passing (봄날은 간다) is an old Korean song lamenting the inevitable passing of the prime of life. Since the original version which was sung by Paik Seol Hee (백설희, 1924-2010) in 1953, it has lived on as one of best loved songs of the 50s thanks to its plaintive, beautiful lyrics as well as the emotionally charged, period piece tune. In three heartfelt verses it captures the ups and downs, euphoria and sadness of a girl coming of age in the midst of her springtime. In fact, it is a song about all of us who go through the blossoming and waning of life.
Spring Days Are Passing
Spring Days Are Passing was written by Sohn Roh Won (손로원, words) and Park Si Choon (박시춘, music), each a veteran in the Korean trot (트로트) genre. Carried on a delicate, sadness-tinged melody, its pensive lyrics are poetic and insightful. Notably, this song came on top in a survey of the best loved lyrics conducted for a hundred poets about ten years ago. Generally serious poets are not known for their love of such soggy tunes from a long gone era, but this song seems to be an exception. Its title itself seems to be a line forever loved and repeated by the public, as the many works in music, poetry, film, and stage play bearing this title attest to. It is a phrase that aptly captures the gloriously regenerative and vibrant yet elusive and short lived time of spring, both in nature and in our lives. It strikes a chord with the listeners.
The song is about a young girl coming through her own spring days with all the attendant heart-throbbing elations and ensuing sorrows as many youths experience at that point of their lives. It is the best period, the time of her life, that gives her rosy dreams and a world that looks the brightest of all.
She might experience fits of fancy, unusual emotional outbursts, the unique thrill and purity of mind which is the hallmark of youth. She would strive to find the best path, the right man for her life, out of the myriad possibilities before her in that short and elusive period. Some will find happiness and settle down with the sweetheart of her dreams, yet others will fail one way or another and end up with a disappointment, perhaps for a brief passing period in more fortunate cases, or with a life changing magnitude in others. We all face such crossroads where one has to make very important choices, at a tender young age without the benefit of long life experience. It is one of life’s greatest joys but it comes wrapped in so uncertainties and trepidations.
Our heroin has her share of pink dreams, goes through the vagaries of romance, and meets with her share of sadness. In the end the spring days are passing amidst a bittersweet song. The world that looked so rosy and hopeful was not an easy one for her after all, as countless young girls and boys must have found repeatedly over the ages. Often times it is sad and fraught with peril, but therein lies the essence of life, in the sense that now matter how it might end it is you who must live it. Spring days are passing for each of us at some point, out of our control and with no chance of turning back, all as part of the cycle that repeats forever, generation after generation. All we have left to do in the end is fondly look back and reminisce, and this irony and poignancy seem to be what makes it such a lasting favorite of the people.