We promise one another / poems from an Asian war .
selected by DON LUCE and ....
S t r u g g l e
I would rather be blind and keep my name pure
than have a sight and feed on things impure
NGUYỄN ĐÌNH CHIỂU
' Tranh đấu ' ' struggle ' , is a word often used in Việtnam . It is found the propaganda of both side . People are encouraged to continue the struggle against the Communists , or against the Amerian imperalists and their lackeys . It appears in the names of organisations which have sprung up in Saigon which consist of people who are not Communists but are dertermined to struggle against the repressive Thiệu regime . It is a common name for student magazines and undergrounds newspapers . The anti government movement which erupted in Huế in 1966 and which threatened to bring down the government of Nguyễn Cao Kỳ was called the ' Struggle Movement ' .
Vietnamese are proud ot their history of struggle - against the Chinese , against the French , and now against the intervention of the Americans . When poets call on their readers to struggle , they are aware that they involving a glorious history of opposing foreign domination .
It is in poetry , not in propaganda , that the word appears to be used most honestly and powerfully . In the following poems poets from the North and from the South urge their readers to struggle not for a political system , such as Communism or Democracy , but for justice , for their native village , for their country , for the sons and daughters of Lạc Hồng * for humanity . It is for these things that the Vietnamese have proved they are willing to struggle and die .
( DON LUCE ' s note ).
* Lạc Hồng " In Vietnamese mythology , Lạc Hồng is the eldest son of Lạc Long ( Dragon Lord ) and a fairy named
Âu Cơ . He was the founder of the first dynasty recognized in legend as truly Vietnamese . Thus , Lạc Hồng blood is the blood of those who are truly Vietnamese .
I ' D R A T H E R S E E B U T D A R K N E S S
By NGUYỄN ĐÌNH CHIỂU
Nguyễn Đình Chiểu ( 1822 - 1888 ) is one of the best known poets of the 19th century. He contacted an eye disease when he was twenty-four and was soon completely blind . But , this didn't deter him from opposing collaboration with the French in his poems and stories . He opened a school in Bến Tre , where he taught his students the importance of keeping Việtnam free at contamination by foreigners .
I ' d rather see but darkness
Than traitors to their king and families ,
I ' d rather see no living soul
Than the homeland amputated .
I 'd rather see only the night
Than the people drowned in miseries ,
I 'd rather suffer blindness and keep
the family virtues intact ,
Than have sight and deny my ancestors ,
I ' d rather be blind and keep my name pure
Than have sight and feed on things impure ..
NGUYỄN ĐÌNH CHIỂU ( or ĐỒ CHIỂU )
( from WE PROMISE ONE ANOTHER - selected, translated by
DON LUCE , JOHN C. SCHAFER AND JACQUELYN CHAGNON -
pubished by The Indochina Mobile Education Project
Washington, D.C, 1971 - p. 43 - 44 )