Thái Nguyên+ Thiên Lý+ Thu Bồn+ Tố Hữu
Copyright: 1971:Don Luce+ John C. Schafer + J. Chagnon
WE PROMISE ONE ANOTHER/ poems from an Asian war
-- C.1971: Don Luce+John C. Schafer+ Jacquelyn Chagnon
STRUGGLE: poems by Nguyễn Đình Chiểu + Xuân Thủy+ Thu Bồn ...
and Tố Hữu
S T R U G G L E
I' d rather be blind and keep my name pure
Than I have sight and feed on things impure
-- NGUYỄN ĐÌNH CHIỂU
'Tranh đấu', struggle, is a word often used in Việtnam. It is found in the propaganda of both sides. People are encouraged to continue against the Communists, or against the American imperialists and their lackeys. It appears in the names of organizations which have sprung up in Saigon which consist of people who are not Communist but are determined to struggle against the repressive Thiêu regime. It is a common name for student magazines and underground newspapers. The anti-government movement which erupted in Huê in 1966 and which threatened to bring down the government of Nguyễn cao Kỳ was called 'Struggle Movement'.
Vietnamese are proud of their history os 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 are invoking a glorious history of oppsing foreign domination.
It is in poetry, not in propaganda, that the word appears to be used most honestly and power fully. 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 nd daughters of Lạc Hồng,* they are willing to struggle and die.
* Lạc Hồng: In Vietnamese mythology, Lạc Hồng is the eldest son of Lạc Hồng(Dragon Lord) and a fairy named Ậu 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 RATHER SEE BUT DARKNES
by Nguyễn đình Chiểu
Nguyễn đình Chiểu (1822-1888) is one the best known poets of the 19th century. He contacted an eye diseases when he was twenty-four and was completely blind. But, this did'nt 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 Vietnam free of 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
by xuân thủy
xuân thủy [i.e. nguyễn trọng nhâm 1912- hanoi 1985]
Xuân Thủy was born in Hanoi in 1912. He was imprisoned by the French in 1938 and spent five years in Phúc Yên Prison in Hanoi. Before the Việtminh seized power in Hanoi in 1945, he was editor of a clandestine newspaper Cứu quốc (Saving the Nation) and was responsible for the Việtminh propaganda operation. He is member of the Central Committee of the Communist Lao Động (Workers) Party, and was Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Việtnam. Currently, he heads the delegation of the DRVN at the Paris Peace Talks.
A roll of provisions hugs your ribs.
In the heat, sweat rains from your deep-gold skin.
Your rubber sandals worn down at the heels
Show mountain peaks know your steps well.
You go down to the roots to hold meetings.
Discussing the emulation to guard the country,
Increase production, build a new life,
Encouraging the 'common man,' opening classes.
Whatever they ask, you answer clearly --
On affairs of the people, the country, the family.
All praise you: cheerful, hardworking.
To them you are a close friend.
Once the French burst in suddenly.
Exploding bombs shredded houses;
Hungry and cold, dead an wounded, roads blocked --
Together people planned how to recover.
Cadre of Uncle Hồ so fine,
Young and old cling, hand holding hand.
Brother! whatever you want is ready.
We believe you, we will defeat the French.
For three years Việt Bắc has not rested ...
Sometimes from afar you think of wife and children.
You think, the revolution is rising, isn' t it?
But the worrisome task is not yet done.
LET US STAND UP
by Thái Nguyên
Let us stand up, young people,
Let the blood in our hearts rise like the tide,
Our steps sound like a storm in the night,
Our voices reach from the earth to the heavens.
Look, for haven' t you seen
That it' s time we break from your prison
End your years of misery;
Our food is still watered with sweat
As we remember our years in slavery,
Let us call to one another,
My suffering friends,
The road is open and waits for your steps
To the festival of Independence.
Twenty-five years without raising our voices,
Twenty-five years of waiting;
The fire of hatred burns in our hearts
And our hands are dry and burnt,
Yet bamboo spears shall break the steel blades;
Each step, a new hope
Each song, a new glory.
Friends from the North to the South,
We are together, we are one,
The storm will be over,
The day of home coming is near!
Fire will light our road,
Flags will fly on our way,
We will meet at the glorious day.
Lạc Hồng * blood will make our land greener,
Rice and milk will become plenty.
Hear the proud lullaby of our white-haired mother:
'The day you left, you are fifteen;
Now you feet are covered with scars
And your dreams have become bright.'
Let us rise while the blaze brightens our lands,
Let us rise, my brothers and sisters,
Fulfill our dream -- pour glorious country
Our flag of independence!
* See introduction to this section.
POEM OF HOPE
by Thiên Lý
This poem appeared in the Saigon Student Union newspaper, Sinh viên (Student), and is generally considered to be the item in that newspaper most responsible for the five-year jail sentence of hard labor for its editor, Nguyễn trường Côn.
Those of you who die for tomorrow,
Those who still live for the future,
Don' t you feel the hopes of today
Rise up as the flag flies in the wind?
Don' t you hear your heart beat loudly,
The voice of hope mingled with the joyful songs of victory?
Some days ago we could not sleep
Waiting for people to come to break the yoke of oppression,
Anxiuosly waiting the day!
Rise up like the forest and mountains!
The blood of the people flows strongly,
Don' t hesistate! Stand up and fly the large flag!
The road of freedom resounds with cheering voices.
How great is the violence of the enemy but our forecs can resist.
Stand in a multitude of lines and go forward
Trampling and smashing the herd of white-faced enemies.
Even though the bullets kill by mistake,
The Mother still calmly rocks the baby
And the baby grows up unafraid of the bombing.
Cut into pieces the bodies of those who sell our country!
Don' t withdraw no matter how strong the ennemy!
Remember to prepare the meal for those who sit up late to watch the enemy.
In the distance we joyfully see thousands of stars,
And imagine that these are our flags fluttering in teh sky.*
Our whole nation begins to rise up.
Prepare yourself! Young men and women now suffering amny difficulties.
Let us join together to enterr a glorious period,
Raise our flag of victory!
Over one century of struggle
But now, today
Thousands of eyes shine with hope.
* Perhaps a reference to the fact that the North Vietnamese and the NLF flags have s a star in them.
S A L T
by Thu Bồn
thu bồn [i.e. hà đức trọng 1935-2003] -- (photo: internet)
Thu Bồn is a well-known poet associated with the National Liberation of South Vietnam
( p. 51)
This morning salt has come to the mountains,
A hand with a grain of salt is better than a hand full of gold.
Clear water like somersaulting airplanes
Mixed with a fisful of hot peppers in the jungle,
A pot of boiling soup calls a cheerful greeting.
The roll of dry rations seems happy, too, to be abandoned.
DAUGHTER OF VIÊTNAM
by Tố Hữu
tố hữu [i.e. nguyễn kim thành 1920- hanoi 2002] & his wife
Tố Hữu is also one of the greatest living poets of Việtnam. He has consistently expressed the hopes of the revolutionary forces in his country. Born in Huế in 1920, he was arrested for anti-colnial activities when he was nineteen, but escaped three years later.
He became president of the Committee of Insurrection of Huế in 1945. In 1951, he was admitted as a member to the Central Committee of the Lao Động (Workers) Party.
He is repected for having achieved in his work a remarkable synthesis of tradiotional and modern motifs and for his sensitivity to the aspiration of the common people of Việtnam.
Who are you my sister, young girl or ghost?
How old are you or have you no age?
Is this your hair or clouds or stream?
Are those your eyes that look at me?
Or was it the lightning in the storm?
Is your body flesh or bronze?
Let me kiss your frozen feet,
Let me hold tight your hands,
Your fragile hands, your abused body.
(p 43- 54 WE PROMISE ONE ANOTHER/ poems from an Asian war.
(Washington D.C., 1971)