Windowpane
(유리창)

poem by
Jeong Ji-yong (정지용)
year of publication
1929
poetry collection
Jeong Ji-yong Poetry Collection
(정지용 시집), 1935
유리창
Windowpane

유리에 차고 슬픈 것이 어른거린다.
Something cold and sad hovers on the glass.
열없이 붙어 서서 입김을 흐리우니
I stand next to it awkwardly and breathe on it.
길들은 양 언 날개를 파다거린다.
Frozen wings are flapping as if in submission.
지우고 보고 지우고 보아도
I wipe it out and look again, and again,
새까만 밤이 밀려나가고 밀려와 부딪히고,
see the black night recede, then surge back clashing.
물 먹은 별이, 반짝, 보석처럼 박힌다.
A watery star flickers, gets lodged like a gemstone.
밤에 홀로 유리를 닦는 것은
Wiping a window glass alone at night is
외로운 황홀한 심사이어니
my desolate enraptured state of mind,
고운 폐혈관이 찢어진 채로
since you flew away like a mountain bird
아아, 너는 산새처럼 날아갔구나!
ah, with your delicate lung vessels ruptured!
유리창

유리에 차고 슬픈 것이 어른거린다.
열없이 붙어 서서 입김을 흐리우니
길들은 양 언 날개를 파다거린다.
지우고 보고 지우고 보아도
새까만 밤이 밀려나가고 밀려와 부딪히고,
물 먹은 별이, 반짝, 보석처럼 박힌다.
밤에 홀로 유리를 닦는 것은
외로운 황홀한 심사이어니
고운 폐혈관이 찢어진 채로
아아, 너는 산새처럼 날아갔구나!

Windowpane

Something cold and sad hovers on the glass.
I stand next to it awkwardly and breathe on it.
Frozen wings are flapping as if in submission.
I wipe it out and look again, and again,
see the black night recede, then surge back clashing.
A watery star flickers, gets lodged like a gemstone.
Wiping a window glass alone at night is
my desolate enraptured state of mind,
since you flew away like a mountain bird
ah, with your delicate lung vessels ruptured!

Windowpane is recognized as one of Jeong Ji-yongs great works that showcase his unique style of detached observation relying on attentive descriptions of low level details. The short poem about a sad and lonely man, perhaps Jeong himself, looking through a window at night breathing on the windowpane and observing the fogging and clearing patterns on it. He is probably doing this because he can't help it, because it is the only way he can assuage his sadness after he has lost his son, as the last lines reveal. The foggy breath on the windowpane is described like it's a living being, flapping wings and submissively reacting to what he does making the night outside recede or surge back; the tear in his eyes creates a watery star that flickers and gets lodged in the picture. All this is depicted in an almost analytical style that appears in many of his other works as well.

This style of preferring objective description and imagery was a literary trend that Jeong had adopted and advanced in the 1930s together with a group of avant-garde poets known as Imagists. They put the intellect before emotion, and analytical imagery before traditional descriptions, adopting the new literary sub-genre first popularized by Western poets. In this work, the poet at least closes with very emotional lines at the end about the death of his son, unlike in some other such works where no trace of emotional attachment can be found.

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Jeong Ji-yong (정지용)

A prominent poet and educator who spearheaded the new modernistic trend of the 1930s through his works on wide-ranging subjects feauring sensual language and keen observation

aritist
Jeong Ji-yong (정지용, 鄭芝溶), poet
pen name
Jiryong (지룡, 池龍)
nationality
Korea
born
June 20, 1902,
in Okcheon, N. Chungcheong Province, Korea
(충청북도 옥천군)
died
September 25, 1950 (unconfirmed)
genre
lyric poetry
major works
Home Longing (항수)
Homeplace (고향)
Windowpane (유리창)
The Sea (바다)
Lake (호수)
The Other Side of the Mountain (산 넘어 저쪽에는)
Cafe France (카페 프란스)
The Road Home (귀로)
Rain (비)
Pomegranate (석류)