“Flowers That Bloom When Shaken” by Do Jong-Hwan

Do Jong-Hwan

Do Jong-Hwan



Where have flowers bloomed but never trembled?
Even those most beautiful
all trembled as they blossomed,
and as they shook, stalks grew firm.
Where is there a love which is never shaken?

Where have flowers bloomed though never been made wet?
Even those most brightly sparkling
were soaked and soaked again as they blossomed.
Battered by wind and rain, their petals opened warmly.
Where is there a life which is never been drenched?

 

흔들리지 않고 피는 꽃이 어디 있으랴
이 세상 그 어떤 아름다운 꽃들도
다 흔들리면서 피었나니
흔들리면서 줄기를 곧게 세웠나니
흔들리지 않고 가는 사랑이 어디 있으랴

젖지 않고 피는 꽃이 어디 있으랴
이세상 그 어떤 빛나는 꽃들도
다 젖으며 젖으며 피었나니
바람과 비에 젖으며 꽃입 따뜻하게 피웠나니
젖지 않고 가는 삶이 어디 있으랴

 

Do Jong-Hwan (1954–) was born in Cheongju in the province of North Chungcheong. He graduated from Chungbuk National University with a degree in Korean language education and went on to work as a lecturer. His literary work was first published in the small literary magazine Age Divided (분단시대) in 1984.

His published collections of poetry include You, My Hollyhock (접시꽃 당신),  In Godumi Village (고두미 마을에서), A Flower Falls in the Village of People (사람의 마을에 꽃이 진다), and The Root of Sorrow (슬픔의 뿌리).

  • Impressed

    This was the best nonprofessional translation of this poem I could find. It’s the most lyrical and accurate in meaning. Other fan translations, albeit by people with Korean and literature backgrounds, seem to have completely missed the point. Apparently this post was edited in 2017, so perhaps you might have corrected any errors after seeing the professional translation by Brother Anthony. But it still stands that you’re an amazing translator.

    Your translation emphasizes that flowers bloomed DESPITE shaking, while other translations imply that flowers bloomed BECAUSE they were shaken. Also, other translations imply rain is a good thing, like a form of nourishment, while your translation accurately emphasizes that rain symbolizes hardship.

    The diction is a bit dramatic, but it helped me understand and feel the poem more. I don’t know if you perhaps took too many liberties in interpretation, but it helped me understand the poem. Thanks for your efforts. I hope more people find your blog.

    • Thank you for the compliment! And actually, I don’t really seek out translations by other people when I work on a poem. The fun in translating comes from wrestling with a text and coming up with what I consider to be a clever solution to conveying a passage in English (but most is probably too technical for most readers to care about).

      Another reason why I don’t like looking at other translations is that I tend to feel my own skills are lacking. I only made an exception with this poem because what I’ve seen over the years is that most people who discover the site were searching for this poem by Do Jong-Hwan.

      The edits I made in 2017 were mostly minor. It was just a case of swapping synonyms and adjusting some punctuation from my first attempt.

      The biggest change was to the title. Originally, I had translated it as “Flowers Shaken While Blooming” rather than “Flowers That Bloom When Shaken” because all the sources I consult on grammar issues (Korean Grammatical Forms, Korean: A Comprehensive Grammar, and 외국어로서의 한국어 문법 사전) said that the Korean particle -(으)며 has two meanings.

      One meaning overlaps with the usage of -(으)면서 and indicates that two actions are taking place simultaneously and are done by the same person. The difference between -(으)면서 and -(으)며 is that -(으)면서 is more colloquial or spoken and -(으)며 is literary. The second meaning of -(으)며 is simply “and”, so it functions just like 고 except that -(으)며 is a literary form.

      Since the first usage seemed to fit best, I translated -(으)며 in the title as “while”. But since so many other translations use “when”, I made the switch since “Flowers That Bloom When Shaken” is the title most people search for.

      Last, as far as diction coming across as dramatic, that stems from the wording of the original poem. It uses grammatical particles like -(으)랴 to ask rhetorical questions and the particles -(으)며 and -나니 to link clauses together. The last two particles are considered literary, so the translation tries to maintain/convey that distinction.