Ferryboat and Traveler

나릇배 와 行人
나는 나룻배
당신은 행인

당신은 흙발로 나를 짓 밟습니다.
나는 당신을 안고 물을 건너갑니다.
나는 당신을 안으며 깊으나 옅으나 급한 여울이나 건너갑니다.

만일 당신이 아니 오시면 나는 바람을 쐬고 눈비를 맞으며
밤에서 낮까지 당신을 기다리고 있습니다.

당신은 물만 건너면 나를 돌아보지도 않고 가십니다그려,
그러나 당신이 언제든지 오실 줄만은 알아요
나는 당신을 기다리면서 날마다 날마다 낡아갑니다.

나는 나릇배
당신은 행인.

Ferryboat and Traveler
Author: Manhae Han Yong-un (1879-1944)
Translator: Francesca Cho

I’m the ferryboat;
you’re the traveler.

You walk on me with muddy feet;
I hold you and cross the water.
I bear you across the deep, the shallow, the rapid.

If you don’t come, I endure wind, snow, rain,
and wait for you, from dusk to dawn.
Once you cross the water, you leave without looking back.
Sooner or later you’ll come, I know.
I wait for you and grow old day by day.

I’m the ferryboat;
you’re the traveler.

Chippewa Harbor Sunrise by Ray Dumas
Chippewa Harbor Sunrise by Ray Dumas

“My father wants to know why you chose this poem,” the concierge of the Hanjin Hostel in Gyeongju, ancient capital of South Korea, asked me. For a small fee, his father had written this poem, and my name, in Korean Hangul calligraphy.

“I’m a Christian,” I said. “This poem has a really deep meaning for me. We believe that love is sacrifice.”

“Oh, I see…Where do you live?”

“Japan. I’m an English teacher.”

“Yes, this poem is very Japanese,” he said. He turned and told his father in Korean.

Nihon?” the father asked me.

Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka?” I replied. Until then, I’d only seen him sit still on the tatami and watch television during reception hours, but those words brought him to life. He grew up speaking Japanese during the occupation, spent some time in the country afterward, then returned home and eventually established this international hostel in this city of tombs and memories. (“Han” is Chinese for “Korea,” and “Jin” is Japanese for “person.”)

We happily spoke Japanese together. He came out from the office and showed me around the lobby. There were pictures of him with generations of travelers. Some had returned year after year for decades, and he would visit their own homes in return. He was an innkeeper in the truest sense.

I had a bus to catch, so we warmly said goodbye. I carried his calligraphy with me to Japan, America, and Taiwan. I hope he and his family are well this Christmas, as are all the other people I’ve met over these years on the road.

Manhae was a Buddhist monk who wrote during the Japanese occupation. The English collection of his poems, Everything Yearned For, is the only poetry book I carry from one home to another. It tells of intense love, the kind I hope to feel toward my beloved and my God.

Explore posts in the same categories: Interesting Places, Literature, Religion

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One Comment on “Ferryboat and Traveler”

  1. Titi Says:

    You are such a good poetic person. I love this poem. You are amazing. This poem really expresses my feelings.

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