Rapids
(개여울)

poem by
Kim So-wol (김소월)
year of publication
1925
poetry collection
Azaleas (진달래꽃), 1925
music performed by
Jeong Mi-jo (정미조)
music composed by
Lee Hui-mok (이희목)
개여울
Rapids

당신은 무슨 일로 그리합니까
What is it that makes you act this way
홀로이 개여울에 주저앉아서
Sitting alone by the rapids of a stream

파릇한 풀포기가 돋아 나오고
When fresh green shoots are sprouting
잔물이 봄바람에 헤적일 때에
As fine wavelets ripple in a spring breeze

가도 아주 가지는 않노라시던
There must have been a promise perhaps
그런 약속이 있었겠지요
That the going away wasn't to be forever

날마다 개여울에 나와 앉아서
Every day you come sit out by the rapids
하염없이 무엇을 생각합니다
Lost in deep thoughts about something

가도 아주 가지는 않노라심은
Was it meant to be a plea not to forget
굳이 잊지 말라는 부탁인지요
That the going away wasn't to be forever
개여울

당신은 무슨 일로 그리합니까
홀로이 개여울에 주저앉아서

파릇한 풀포기가 돋아 나오고
잔물이 봄바람에 헤적일 때에

가도 아주 가지는 않노라시던
그런 약속이 있었겠지요

날마다 개여울에 나와 앉아서
하염없이 무엇을 생각합니다

가도 아주 가지는 않노라심은
굳이 잊지 말라는 부탁인지요

Rapids

What is it that makes you act this way
Sitting alone by the rapids of a stream

When fresh green shoots are sprouting
As fine wavelets ripple in a spring breeze

There must have been a promise perhaps
That the going away wasn't to be forever

Every day you come sit out by the rapids
Lost in deep thoughts about something

Was it meant to be a plea not to forget
That the going away wasn't to be forever
original release by Jeong Mi-jo
a jazzy version by Malo

This work describes someone who acts like they have a poignant story behind them - brooding, whiling their life away watching the flowing water. The narrator asks questions and tries to guess what happened to the person, who is another case of waiting for someone who went away saying it wouldn't be long. But that person is not coming back for whatever reason. Pining for someone you're separated from is a recurring theme of Kim So-wol's work, as well as a common thread in old Korean songs and poems. The early 20th century that Kim lived through was a tumultuous time when families and loved ones going asunder was rather common, owing to frequent wars and social upheavals. There have been stories after stories, verses after verses written about them.

Our subject is one such case, unable to let go of the one that is not coming back, withering away because they can't give up. The person could very well be Kim, as he himself lost someone dear to his heart and wrote a dirge-like verse about the experience in Evocation (초혼). The rapids in the water reminds him of the cold, changing world that swept his sweetheart away, looking all the more sad and ironic because he also sees around him the new green shoots and warm breeze of life-giving springtime. The consternation, despair and soul-draining yearning are too much to bear. As usual, Kim is depicting the unseverable tie that binds people, which sometimes has the power to transcend even the most crushing of circumstances.

Happily, Lee Hui-mok (이희목), a relatively obscure composer, wrote a nicely tuneful melody to this great poem, and Jeong Mi-jo (정미조), a Cinderella on the pop music scene at the time, did justice to the song to create a memorable work. A decent hit when it came out, the song has since been covered by a slew of female singers, including Jeong herself on her recent comeback album, attesting to its popularity.

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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)