An Easy Poem

Back when I was living in Korea, I would often take photos of the short poems they have on the walls of the subway. I thought that they would make excellent study material for beginners because of their simplicity. Here’s my attempt to translate and explain a nice poem that I encountered one day.

보이지 않아도

보이지 않아도
풀입을 흔들고

보이지 않아도
나무를 흔들고

보이지 않아도
나를 흔들고

보이지 않은 게
보이는 것보다
힘이 더 세다.


What can’t be seen

Though it can’t be seen
Moves blades of grass

Though it can’t be seen
Moves trees

Though you can’t be seen
Move me

What can’t be seen
Has greater power
Than what can

That was my go at doing as minimalist a translation as I can. The poem lacks a little of the punch it has in Korean when translated into English. One reason for this is that the last two lines of the poem are back to front and so the punchline comes early in the English version.

Here are the verbs and their endings:

보이다 – to be seen (intransitive version of 보다 which means to see)
~지 않다  – long way of conjugating a verb to a negative (with 보이다 –> 보이지 않다 = not seen)
~아도 – even / even though (보이지 않아도 = even though not seen)
~은 게 – form for a verb or adjective to turn it into a noun clause (보이지 않은 게 = the thing that can’t be seen)

흔들다 – to shake / move [something]
~고 – “and” form for a verb (흔들고 = shake and…)

힘이 세다 – to have power / be strong (힘이 더 세다 = have/has more power)

~는 것 – noun clause form for a verb (보이는 것 = what can be seen)


풀입 – grass blades (풀 = grass, 잎 = blades or leaves as in 나무잎, leaves on a tree)

태풍 – typhoon

나무 – tree / trees (나무를 흔들다 = moves the trees)

너 – you (intimate form – only for use with inferior subjects)

나 – I/me (non-humble form – for use with non-honorific subjects)

Grammar Particles for nouns:

~보다 – means “than” (보이는 것보다 = than what can be seen)

 ~를 – direct object particle (나를 흔들다 = moves ME)
Here’s a bonus photo of 의림지 in 제천. Has anyone visited there? I highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.

2 Comments on “An Easy Poem”

  1. Dae-yong says:

    What a lovely poem.

  2. martin says:

    thanks a lot for this beautiful poem 🙂

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