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I'm learning Korean and had to translate a poem for a translation class. the poem is 옛날의 노래 by Kim Myeongsoon. I would love to get some feedback from a Korean speaker on my translation! Here's the original and my translation so far.

고요한 옛날의 노래여
This is a song of serene days past

꿈 가운데 걸어오는 발자취같이
like treading footsteps in a dream

들렸다 사라지는...
heard, and then fading...

어머니의 노래여 사랑의 탄식이여.
This is a mother's song, love's sigh.

"타방 타방네야 너 어디를 울며 가니
"Other side, you're from the other side, where you headed crying, kid?

내 어머니 몸 진 곳에 젖 먹으러 울며간다”
I'm going in tears to my mother's breast from the outpost of her body."

이는 내 어머니의 가르치신 노래이나
This is the song my dear mother taught me or

물결 이는 말 못 미쳐 이것만 아노라.
it is waves, this is a batshit language, if nothing else please know this.

옛날의 날 사랑하시든 내 어머니를
Whichever mother I love,

큰사랑을 세상에서 잃은 설움이
This sorrow of a connection gone from the world in a single day

멜로디-만 황혼을 숨질 때
is just a melody while dusk settles to die,

장밋빛으로 열린 들길에는 바람도 애타라.
and the wind too, towards rose-pink out from the open field path, please be disquiet.

오래인 노래여 내게 옛 말씀을 들리사
This is a long song; listen to these old words for me.

어린이의 설움 속에 이끌어 들이소서
I plead: shepherd me from this place of child's sorrow;

불로초로 수놓은 초록 옷을 입히소서
I plead: clothe me in the herb of eternal youth, embroidered green;

그러면 나는 만년청의 빨간 열매 같으리다.
Then I could resemble the crimson berries of rohdea.

무언가無言歌여 다만 음향이여 나를 이끌어
This is a wordless song, it's merely sound, to lead me

그대의 말씀 사라진 곳에
from thy words that drift away,

내 어머니 몸 진 곳에 산을 넘고 물은 건너라
cross the water, surpass the mountain from the outpost of my mother's body,

옛날의 노래여, 사라지는 울림이여.
this is an old song, this is a fading echo.

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  • Please rearrange your post to make it easier to read. Place your translation after the corresponding Korean text.
    – user17915
    Jan 18 at 0:18

2 Answers 2

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Very nice try. Here's my input on some of the lines.

"타방 타방네야 너 어디를 울며 가니 "Other side, you're from the other side, where you headed crying, kid?

타방 here doesn't mean the hanja word '타방'. 타방네 is more often spelled 타박네, 다박네, 다복네, etc. It is supposed to be a nick name (for a girl) in an obscure traditional children's song passed down by word of mouth. It was also resurrected and released as the folk song 타박네 since the 1970s (by 서유석, 양병집, and perhaps more).
There seems no definitive interpretation of the name or the lyrics, but some say that 타박네 is the daughter of a Shaman (무당) who was jeered and harassed by others. According to this interpretation, 타박 probably comes from the verb 타박하다 (harass, complain). Another possibility is 타박거리다 which describes the feeble footsteps ("타박 타박 걷다") of a tired person. This kind of fits the context since the song talks about someone going somewhere (울며 가니).

물결 이는 말 못 미쳐 이것만 아노라. it is waves, this is a batshit language, if nothing else please know this.

이것만 아노라 is clearly "I only know this" (it is not an imperative form like 알아라 but an old style declarative form). 물결 이는 말 못 미쳐 is a hard one. Could be "failing to grasp (미치다 = reach) the turbulent (물결 이는) words (말)", or 말 못 might have some special meaning that I don't know.

옛날의 날 사랑하시든 내 어머니를 Whichever mother I love,

'whichever' seems wrong. -든 means which- or whatever in some contexts but here it is actually 사랑하시던, a past tense with implied repetition or duration. -던 is often mixed up with -든, and when the poem came out about a hundred years ago, -든 might have been the correct way. This phrase simply means "My Mother who used to love me in the old days".

큰사랑을 세상에서 잃은 설움이 This sorrow of a connection gone from the world in a single day

'in a single day' doesn't seem to be in the original.

멜로디-만 황혼을 숨질 때 is just a melody while dusk settles to die,

'황혼을 숨질 때' is another weird phrasing. '황혼이 숨질 때' would be 'the twilight dying/perishing'. '-을 숨지다' is never used in modern Korean.

장밋빛으로 열린 들길에는 바람도 애타라. and the wind too, towards rose-pink out from the open field path, please be disquiet.

애타다 means 애가 타다 (one feels sorrowful like one's gut(애) is burning(타다)). 애타라 is just an exclamatory form of the plain 애가 타(요). The line is something like "On the rose-colored open field path even the wind seems heartbroken", expressed like a lament.

오래인 노래여 내게 옛 말씀을 들리사 This is a long song; listen to these old words for me.

I think 오래인 is a variant of 오랜. 오랜 usually means "long time" or "old", meaning having existed for a long time. I doubt it is referring to the song's length.

어린이의 설움 속에 이끌어 들이소서 I plead: shepherd me from this place of child's sorrow;

속에 이끌어 들이소서 is normally guiding someone into the place, not from that place.

그대의 말씀 사라진 곳에 from thy words that drift away,

곳 means a place, so it is like "In the place where your words have gone away".

옛날의 노래여, 사라지는 울림이여. this is an old song, this is a fading echo.

The -여 ending is used when you call someone or something in a dramatic way (e.g. 약한 자여, 그대의 이름은 여자이니라 = "Frailty, thy name is woman" from Hamlet). So "This is ..." might not be the best way to translate it. Sometimes -여 is translated with exclamatory "O", like "O the song of olden days, ...", but there is really no rule on these things.

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I only did part of it. It got a little difficult because the poem uses expressions not used in modern casual speech. Also, I noticed a missing portion in your copy.

고요한 옛날의 노래여 This is a song of serene days past

Oh! The song of serene days past!

꿈 가운데 걸어오는 발자취같이 like treading footsteps in a dream

like approaching footprints in the middle of a dream

들렸다 사라지는... heard, and then fading...

heard, and then fading...

어머니의 노래여 사랑의 탄식이여. This is a mother's song, love's sigh.

This is a mother's song, love's sigh.

"타방 타방네야 너 어디를 울며 가니 "Other side, you're from the other side, where you headed crying, kid?

Cast-out, cast-out! Where are you going crying? (타방네 probably means 타박네. https://m.blog.naver.com/PostView.naver?isHttpsRedirect=true&blogId=youseok0&logNo=10110367762 The word probably comes from 타박 + 네 (person).

내 어머니 몸 진 곳에 젖 먹으러 울며간다” I'm going in tears to my mother's breast from the outpost of her body."

I'm going in tears for my mother's breast milk to the place where her body was set down.

이는 내 어머니의 가르치신 노래이나 This is the song my dear mother taught me or

This is the song my mother taught me but

물결 이는 말 못 미쳐 이것만 아노라.

물결 이는 말 못 밑에 이것만 아노라. it is waves, this is a batshit language, if nothing else please know this. it falls short of the waveful words and I only know this.

옛날의 날 사랑하시든 내 어머니를 Whichever mother I love,

My mother that loved me long ago

큰사랑을 세상에서 잃은 설움이

큰 사랑을 세상에서 잃은 설움이 This sorrow of a connection gone from the world in a single day the sorrows from the loss of her big love in the world

멜로디-만 황혼을 숨질 때

멜로디만 황혼을 숨 지을 때 is just a melody while dusk settles to die,

장밋빛으로 열린 들길에는 바람도 애타라.

장밋빛으로 열린 들길에는 바람도 애타다. and the wind too, towards rose-pink out from the open field path, please be disquiet.

오래인 노래여 내게 옛 말씀을 들리사 This is a long song; listen to these old words for me.

어린이의 설움 속에 이끌어 들이소서 I plead: shepherd me from this place of child's sorrow;

불로초로 수놓은 초록 옷을 입히소서 I plead: clothe me in the herb of eternal youth, embroidered green;

그러면 나는 만년청의 빨간 열매 같으리다. Then I could resemble the crimson berries of rohdea.

말을 잊은 노래여 음조(音調)만 남아서 길 다한 곳에 레테 강이 흐릅디까 모든 것을 깨쳐버리는 정화수가 흐릅디까 오오 그 물이 내 거울이 되리다.

무언가無言歌여 다만 음향이여 나를 이끌어 This is a wordless song, it's merely sound, to lead me

그대의 말씀 사라진 곳에 from thy words that drift away,

내 어머니 몸 진 곳에 산을 넘고 물은 건너라 cross the water, surpass the mountain from the outpost of my mother's body,

옛날의 노래여, 사라지는 울림이여. this is an old song, this is a fading echo.

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