Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do you understand the poem "문둥이"?

The following short poem is entitled "문둥이," which means "Leper." It was written in 1936 by Seo Jeong-ju (서정주).


해와 하늘빛이
문둥이는 서러워

보리밭에 달 뜨면
애기 하나 먹고

꽃처럼 붉은 울음을
밤새 울었다.


"Leper" - by Seo Jeong-ju

The sun and blue sky
sadden the leper.

A barley field moon,
then he eats a child.

Red cries like flowers,
he weeps through the night.

Korean lepers supposedly used to believe they could cure their illness by eating the flesh of children. It is said that lepers would kidnap children and take them into barley fields to eat them. Whether parents told their children such stories to keep them away from lepers, or farmers told such stories to keep children out of their barley fields, or lepers really did eat children in barley fields, I do not know, but such stories were told.

I have read that "red cries" (붉은 울음) means "sad cries," but I do not know exactly why "red" suggests sadness, and I do not know why it was compared to a flower. Do you know?

By the way, in 1685, a Korean man was executed because he cremated his father, who had died from leprosy. Apparently, cremation was illegal in Joseon Korea at the time. The man said he cremated his father because he had heard it would stop the disease from passing on to the man's descendants. LINK

1 comment:

  1. the red cries represents blood tears, which also represents that the person is so sad that he would cry till the blood comes out of his eyes.


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