Sijo Samples

contemporary Korean sijo | traditional Korean sijo | contemporary English sijo

Contemporary Korean Sijo (20th century onwards)

includes both Korean and translated verse

I Will Write a Poem Too

Up above the shimmering sea
     Two or three seagulls are hovering.
Rolling, wheeling, they write a poem.
     I do not know the alphabet they use.
On the broad expanse of sky
     I will write a poem too.

아득한 바다 위에 갈매기 두엇 날아 돈다.
너훌너훌 시를 쓴다. 모르는 나라 글자다.
널따란 하늘 복판에 나도 같이 시를 쓴다.

Yi Unsang (1903-1982)


Early Spring

While I wash the window,
     blowing my breath on it,
A bird flies
     and wipes the sky clean.
Tomorrow, the magnolia will be out
     and clean the colors from the clouds.

내가 입김을 불어 유리창을 닦아내면
새 한 마리 날아가며 하늘을 닦아낸다
내일은 목련꽃 찾아와 구름 빛도 닦으리

Jung Wanyung (b. 1919)


Paulownia Blooms

Misty moonlight spills over the top of the wall
One or two paulownia blooms silently drop
My feet hesitate to go; I turn and look back

담머리 넘어드는 달빛은 은은하고
한두 개 소리 없이 내려지는 오동꽃을
가려다 발을 멈추고 다시 돌아보노라

Yi Byung-Gi (1891-1968)


On Sijo Writing

The first line is a full skirt,
     the second is the bodice;
On reaching the third and last
     the neat collar has been added.
Lightly tie the ribbon bow,
     and the charm of the dress will appear.

The basic pattern of fours
     is like the counting of the days:
Twenty-eight will make a month,
     thirty-one, too, will make a month.
Set the stern, and when leaves and flowers bloom
     fragrance will come of itself.

The bright moon lighting up the sky,
     clear and white above the ground,
Is it just the shining soul
     of the sijo of ancient masters?
The mere sound of a lute in moonlight
     is that not a sijo too?

Yang Sanggyong (b. 1904)


My Home Village

When I quietly close my eyes, I see
     a twisting path across the meadows,
Where the water of the stream
     tumbles in runnels in the path,
And under the white poplars
     thatched houses hide behind brushwood fences.

I come leading a calf
     and see the azalea flowers
Covering the mountains all around
     like the pink evening glow of twilight;
And there is the heartening smell
     of the stew only mother can make.

The gentle girls will be gathering
     the savory mountain herbs
For the meal-table of every house
     in a village tasting the spring.
But when I open my eyes,
     my heart turns sad again.

Kim Sangok (b.1919)


Traditional Korean Sijo (pre-20th century)

includes both Korean and translated verse

A shadow strikes the water below:
     a monk passes by on the bridge,
“Stay awhile, reverend sir,
     let me ask you where you go.”
He just points his staff at the white clouds
     and keeps on his way without turning.

물 아래 그림자 지니 다리위에 중이 간다
저 중아 게 있거라 너 가는 데 물어보자
막대로 흰 구름 가리키며 돌아 아니 보고 가노메라

Chung Chul (1536-1593)


If everyone were a government official,
     would there be any farmers?
If doctors cured all disease,
     would graveyards be as they are?
Boy, fill the glass to the brim;
     I’ll live my life as I please.

벼슬을 저마다 하면 농부 할 이 뉘 이시며,
의원이 병(病) 고치면 북망산(北邙山)이 저러하랴.
아희야, 잔 가득 부어라, 내 뜻대로 하리라.

Kim Chang-Up (1658-1721)


The spring breeze melted snow on the hills, then quickly disappeared.
I wish I could borrow it briefly to blow over my hair
and melt away the aging frost forming now about my ears.

춘산(春山)에 눈 녹인 바람 건듯 불고 간듸업네
저근듯 비러다가 뿌리과저 머리우희
귀밋헤 해묵은 서리를 불녀볼까 하노라

U-Taek (1262-1342)


Soaring high though a mountain may be,
     it is a mere mound beneath Heaven
Climb and climb,
     and no summit cannot be reached
Yet people stay at its base
     saying the mountain is too high.

태산이 높다하되 하늘아래 뫼이로다
오르고 또 오르면 못오를리 없건만은
사람이 제 아니 오르고 뫼만 높다 하더라

Yang Sa Eun (1517-1584)


Jade Green Stream, Don’t boast so proud
     of your easy passing through these blue hills
Once you have reached the broad sea,
     to return again will be hard,
While the Bright Moon fills these empty hills,
     why not pause? Then go on, if you will.

청산리 벽계수야 수이감을 자랑마라
일도 창해하면 다시오기 어려오니
명월이 만강산하니 쉬여간들 엇더리

Hwang Chin-I (1506-1544)


I will break the back of this long, midwinter night,
Folding it double, cold beneath my spring quilt,
That I may draw out the night, should my love return.

동지달 기나긴 밤을 한 허리를 버혀 내여
춘풍 이불 아래 서리허리 넣었다가
어른 님 오신 날 밤이여드란 구비구비 펴리라

Hwang Chin-I (1506-1544)


Green grass covers the valley.
     Do you sleep? Are you at rest?
O where is that lovely face?
     Can mere bones lie buried here?
I have wine, but no chance to share it.
     Alone, I pour it sadly.

Im Che (1549-1587)
-written at Hwang Chin-I's grave


My horse neighs to leave here now, but you plead with me to stay;
the sun is dipping behind the hill, and I have far to go.
Dear One, instead of stopping me, why not hold back the setting sun?

Anonymous


Could the thousand branches of a green willow capture the fleeting springtime wind?
What could butterflies do to prevent the flowers they love from withering?
No matter how great one’s love, how could it make a leaving flame stay?

Yi Wonik (1547-1634)


If my tears were made of pearls,
     I would catch them all and save them.
When you came back ten years later,
     a jeweled castle should enthrone you.
But these tears leave no trace at all.
     So I am left desolate

Anonymous


If on the pathways of dreams
     a footprint could leave a mark,
The road by your window
     though rough with rocks,
     would soon wear smooth.
But in dreams paths take no footprints.
     I mourn the more for that.

꿈에 다니는 길이 자최 곧 나량이면
님이 집 창 밖에 석로이라도 닳으련마는
꿈길이 자최 없으니 그를 슬허하노라

Yi Myunghan (1595-1645)


Fisherman's Calendar

I. SPRING
8. I drank and lay back;
     the boat carried me down through the shallows.
          Secure the boat, secure the boat!
Pink petals floated near;
     Towŏn itself must have been near.
          Chigukch’ong, chigukch’ong, ŏsawa!
Red dust of the world -
     how far away it seemed.

II. SUMMER
10. I look for my snail-shell hut,
     it is hidden in white clouds.
          Tie the boat fast, tie the boat fast!
Exchange my rod for a bullrush fan
     as we start to climb the rock-path.
          Chigukch’ong, chigukch’ong, ŏsawa!
Did you think I lived idly?
     This is a fisherman’s life.

IV. WINTER
4. A silent snow fell last night,
     so I woke to a bright new world.
          Work the oars, work the oars!
A sea of glass surrounds me;
     further on the jade mountains rise.
          Chigukch’ong, chigukch’ong, ŏsawa!
Fairyland perhaps? Nirvana?
     Surely not a world of men.

Yun Sundo (1587-1671)
-'chigukch'ong' is a form of onomatopoeia

Contemporary Sijo (20th - 21st century)

Tennis

When the professionals play,
it’s like watching a metronome:
Racquet to racquet and back again,
the ball keeps a perfect, steady beat.

When I’m on the court with my friends,
we improvise: jazz, hip-hop

Linda Sue Park
from TAP DANCING ON THE ROOF, © Linda Sue Park, Clarion Books


School Lunch

Each food plopped by tongs or spatula
into its own little space—
square pizza here, square brownie there;
milk carton cube, rectangle tray.
My snack at home after school?
Anything without corners.

Linda Sue Park
from TAP DANCING ON THE ROOF, © Linda Sue Park, Clarion Books


First Sijo: A Night in Andong

One night in Andong
     after a tour of back-allery wine shops,
head spinning, I staggered down
     the narrow, paddy-field paths,
when the two pigs grunted,
     “So, you! Home at last?”

하룻밤 안동 시내 골목술집 구경하고
머리가 삥삥돌때 밭둑길을 거닐다가
도야지 꿀꿀 소리야 이제 왔노 하노라

David McCann
from Urban Temple, 2010


If ever I had a sense
     of who I was and where I was
going, how to get there any
     better, clearer than the water
pouring down over the rocks, deep
     into the inviting chasm

bisecting space, creating
     the occasion for this bridge
I stand on looking out to-
     ward the lake, the hills west, the sun
beginning to fall along its
     suggestive, slow arc, the easing

down into the dark, rocks barely
     discernible, in the morning
the first to walk down the path through
     the gorge might say, what, what is that,
there in the water, the lower
     part of the pool? Something. Caught.

David McCann
from Urban Temple, 2010


Rising early each morning,
     I let her into the warm barn;
I pour oats, clean her stall,
     then fork more hay into the trough;
When she kicks my hand away,
     why do I think of my wife?

Larry Gross
from Sijo West #2, Summer 1996


A welcome weekend at Cedar Key, relaxing on the dock;
pelicans wait poker-faced for bait fish we may leave behind.
Bob away, line, while I watch the sun going back to water.

Larry Gross


Carefully I lifted it from the branch, an empty cocoon,
took it home and mounted it center stage on the mantel.
Hear it speak? What does it say of living, what of the dead?

Parnassus


suddenly I feel again that summer’s shimmering heat 
love-struck we roamed the scented fields and sultry slopes alive with bees 
just found,  in this high school yearbook--a faded daisy chain

Kristy Kiarkow


Zuisen-ji (Kamakura: January Second)

Climbing stairs to Zuisen-ji, I go deeper into the hills.
In the garden of the temple, narcissus lean against stones.
This imprint on my mind, a thought rings true, even stones have friends.

Carmen Sterba


beneath wisteria clusters, hidden, I wait in purple.
perfumed by petals, these longings rise, twine, intertwine and rise...
rise to break apart among clouds...silently break among clouds.

Debi Bender


EVEN NOW

Just us two in the photograph
     his arm around my thin shoulder
That strong limb I then leaned against
     would break so many falls
We stood like this but only once
     but his strength holds me still

Elizabeth St Jacques
from Around the Tree of Light, 1995