Famous Korean Poetry on a Fan

Recently a Korean friend’s mom gave this fan to our daughter:

Korean Fan with Poem

If you look up close though, you can see a poem:

Korean Fan with Poem Close-up

This poem is really intersting to me because it shows both Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, and Chinese characters mixed in. This kind of writing was popular in Korea in the past, so I assumed it was an old, famous poem. It took a lot of research,1 but I figured out what it was. The poem was written by Yi-Jonyeon (이조년 李兆年, 1269-1343) from the Goryeo Dynasty in Korea. According to Wikipedia Korea, which I was only able understand a little, Yi-Jonyeon was a scholar and poet who served under 5 kings (King Wonjong through King Chunghye).

From this helpful website I was able to find the text of the poem:

多情歌(다정가) – Da Jeong Ga

梨花(이화)에 月白(월백)하고
I-hwa e weol baek hago

銀漢(은한)이 三更(삼경)인제
Eun-han i samgyeong inje

一枝春心(일지춘심)을 子規(자규)야 알랴 마난
Ilji chunshim eul jagyu ya alrya manan

多情(다정)도 病(병)인양 하여 잠 못 들어 하노라
Dajeong do byeong inyang hayeo jam mot deuleo hanora

Thankfully I was able to find a translation, courtesy of Ohio State University:

The moon is pallid against the blossoms of the pear;
The Milky Way is twinkling cold at midnight.
The cuckoos wouldn’t guess why I am in despair,
Perching in the boughs of trees in the dim light.
My affection, my love, is a malady I keep;
The disease of the season deprives me of peaceful sleep.

Pretty nice poem actually. It reminds me of poems from the Hyakunin Isshu as well, though the style and such are a bit different. I always enjoy researching stuff like this. 🙂

Anyhow, now you know some famous Korean poetry!

1 Lots of hit-or-miss Google searches. 😉


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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