Azaleas
(진달래꽃)

poem by
Kim So-wol (김소월)
year of publication
1925
poetry collection
Azaleas (진달래꽃), 1925
song performed by
Sumi Jo (조수미)
song composed by
Kim Dong-jin (김동진)
진달래꽃
Azaleas

나 보기가 역겨워
If you get fed up with me
가실 때에는
and decide to leave
말없이 고이 보내 드리오리다.
I would let you go without saying a word.

영변에 약산1
The azaleas of Yaksan1
진달래꽃
in Yeongbyeon,
아름 따다 가실 길에 뿌리오리다.
I will pick an armful to strew in your path.

가시는 걸음걸음
At each step of your way,
놓인 그 꽃을
may your gay feet
사뿐히 즈려밟고 가시옵소서.
gently tread on those flowers as you go.

나 보기가 역겨워
If you get fed up with me
가실 때에는
and decide to leave
죽어도 아니 눈물 흘리오리다.
I would sooner die than show you tears.

[1] 약산은 북한 평양 북쪽의 도시 영변에
[1] Yaksan (약산), a mountain in the city Yeongbyeon
있는 산으로, 진달래꽃이 많이 피는 것으로
(영변) north of North Korea's capital Pyeongyang, was
유명했다고 한다.
famous for bountiful azaleas.
진달래꽃

나 보기가 역겨워
가실 때에는
말없이 고이 보내 드리오리다.

영변에 약산1
진달래꽃
아름 따다 가실 길에 뿌리오리다.

가시는 걸음걸음
놓인 그 꽃을
사뿐히 즈려밟고 가시옵소서.

나 보기가 역겨워
가실 때에는
죽어도 아니 눈물 흘리오리다.

[1] 약산은 북한 평양 북쪽의 도시 영변에
있는 산으로, 진달래꽃이 많이 피는 것으로
유명했다고 한다.

Azaleas

If you get fed up with me
and decide to leave
I would let you go without saying a word.

The azaleas of Yaksan1
in Yeongbyeon,
I will pick an armful to strew in your path.

At each step of your way,
may your gay feet
gently tread on those flowers as you go.

If you get fed up with me
and decide to leave
I would sooner die than show you tears.

[1] Yaksan (약산), a mountain in the city Yeongbyeon
(영변) north of North Korea's capital Pyeongyang, was
famous for bountiful azaleas.
Azaleas, an art song by Sumi Jo (조수미)
with landscapes of Korean hills and mountains
Photo of Azaleas
azalea, Korean Wikipedia photo
(https://ko.wikipedia.org/wiki/진달래)

Azaleas (진달래꽃) is both the title of Kim So-wol's poetry collection published in 1925 and the best known work in it. It is probably the most popular poem in the history of Korea, perennially featured in textbooks and adapted to songs. You could almost say anyone who doesn't know it is probably not a Korean.

The poem has the protagonist (let's assume it is a female to avoid repeating he or she or they) saying what she will do when her loved one leaves her, all grown tired of her. She wouldn't make a scene or cry, but instead gather the azalea flowers and strew them on his path, to make his departure that much more pleasant. She is vowing to do her best for the last time so that her man won't feel guilty or uncomfortable - un utterly selfless devotion you would see in fairy tales.

While on the surface it appears to describe a heart-rending breakup in the woman's relationship, it could as easily be just an imagined situation, as this sort of expressing the opposite appears often in Kim So-wol's work. It could very well be that there is nothing amiss and our protagonist is in such a bliss that she undergoes an emotional inflection point, imagining what she would do in that unthinkable development, savoring her blessings all the more in the process.

However you interpret it, it undeniably captures a profound and boundless love, which appears to be the single most important subject in Kim's works. The poem combines this traditional ideal of love with the visual motif of azaleas - the humbly beautiful flower familiar to most Koreans - resting upon the foundation of time-proven meter of seven-fives (7·5 조) and the simple and earthy language Kim is known for. It must be this lofty yet down-to-earth devotion, the at once ideal and all too familiar emotion that everyone can relate to, which make this work nothing short of a watershed in modern Korean poetry.

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Kim So-wol (김소월)

The poet who grandfathered modern Korean poetry with his works of earthy language of the heart

aritist
Kim So-wol (김소월, 金素月), poet
birth name
Kim Jeong-sik (김정식)
nationality
Korea
born
September 2, 1902, in Kusong (구성), North Korea
died
December 24, 1934, in Kwaksan (곽산), North Korea
genre
lyric poetry
major works
Azaleas (진달래꽃)
Mountain Flowers (산유화)
Evocation (초혼)
Unable to Forget (못 잊어)
One Distant Day (먼 후일)
Golden Grass (금잔디)
Rapids (개여울)
I Didn't Quite Realize Before (예전엔 미처 몰랐어요)
Mother, Sister (엄마야 누나야)
Wangsim-ni (왕십리)
Jeopdong Bird (접동새)