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Manoa 14.2 (2002-2003) 82

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Kim Sowol

[The Tragic Split]

When you leave,
weary of me,
without a word I shall gently let you go.

From Mount Yak
in Yongbyon,
I shall gather armfuls of azaleas
and scatter them on your way.

Step by step
on the flowers placed before you
tread lightly, softly as you go.

When you leave,
weary of me,
though I die, I'll not let one tear fall.

Born in 1902, Kim Sowol wrote his beautifully poignant poetry in a style reminiscent of traditional Korean folk songs. "Azaleas" is one of his most famous poems. Its themes of sad leavetaking and loss recall the anonymous poem "Would You Go?" and the folk song "Arirang." Kim wrote most of his poetry before he was twenty-five. He committed suicide in 1934.


Translation by David R. McCann

"Azaleas" by Kim Sowol. Translated by David R. McCann. From Modern Korean Literature: An Anthology, compiled and edited by Peter H. Lee, © 1990 University of Hawai'i Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.



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