Foreword
(서시)

poem by
Yun Dong-ju (윤동주)
year of publication
1941
poetry collection
Sky, Wind, Stars, and Poetry
(하늘과 바람과 별과 시)
, 1948
서시
Foreword

죽는 날까지 하늘을 우러러
To be without a speck of shame until death
한 점 부끄럼이 없기를,
as I look up to the heaven above,
잎새에 이는 바람에도
I even anguished at the wind
나는 괴로워했다.
ringing through the leaves.
별을 노래하는 마음으로
I will love all creatures destined to die
모든 죽어 가는 것을 사랑해야지.
the same way my heart marvels at the stars.
그리고 나한테 주어진 길을 걸어가야겠다.
And I should gladly walk down the road given to me.

오늘 밤에도 별이 바람에 스치운다.
It is a night the stars are touched by the wind.
서시

죽는 날까지 하늘을 우러러
한 점 부끄럼이 없기를,
잎새에 이는 바람에도
나는 괴로워했다.
별을 노래하는 마음으로
모든 죽어 가는 것을 사랑해야지.
그리고 나한테 주어진 길을 걸어가야겠다.

오늘 밤에도 별이 바람에 스치운다.

Foreword

To be without a speck of shame until death
as I look up to the heaven above,
I even anguished at the wind
ringing through the leaves.
I will love all creatures destined to die
the same way my heart marvels at the stars.
And I should gladly walk down the road given to me.

It is a night the stars are touched by the wind.
handwritten manuscript of Foreword
original handwritten manuscript
of Foreword

Foreword (서시) is a sort of personal manifesto which sets the tone of the poetry collection Sky, Wind, Stars, and Poetry (하늘과 바람과 별과 시). An untitled poem in the opening page of the handwritten manuscript of the collection (people later came to call it 서시, which literally translates to Opening Poem or First Poem), it is a statement of self-resolve. He promises to himself that he will live his life as a good man, being compassionate to his fellow human as well as non-human beings, pursuing only the true and good, so as to have not so much as a speck of shame even in the stern eye of heaven, let alone ordinary mortals. It is the kind of lofty ideal, we might say, that many of us arm ourselves with at a young age when we become more conscious of ourselves and the world around us. But most of us fall astray from it one way or another, buffeted by the myriad forces in life. Yun's resolve might not really be an unfamiliar one in this sense. The difference is that he stayed true to his ideal throughout, which must have been a very difficult thing to do. By not bending himself to accommodate the ways of injustice as most others did, Yun in a way attained a sainthood, like a shining star, a beacon we ordinary folks can draw inspiration from.

The poem remains one of the two best loved works of Yun, together with A Night of Counting the Stars (별 헤는 밤). Most Koreans encounter it in their high school text books, as Yun would rank high up at or near the top in Poetry Hall of Fame if there was such a thing. He certainly deserves the respect, not only as a gifted poet but for his unwavering integrity of never giving up on what he believed in until the end.

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Yun Dong-ju (윤동주)

Young idealist poet who fought against the injustices of his day until the very end of his short life

aritist
Yun Dong-ju (윤동주, 尹東柱), poet
nationality
Korea
born
Dec 30, 1917, in Yongjeong (Longjing), Gando
(present day Jilin Province, China)
died
Feb 16, 1945 (27), in Fukuoka, Japan
genre
lyric poetry (with political undertones)
major works
Foreword (서시)
A Night of Counting the Stars (별 헤는 밤)
Another Home (또 다른 고향)
The Cross (십자가)
Confession (참회록)
New Road (새로운 길)
A Poem Written Easily (쉽게 씌어진 시)
White Shadows (흰 그림자)
The Liver (간)