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MaXuanDao

 

Ma Xuân Đạo (麻春道, 1931?-2009?) was born in Quảng Bình (廣平) province. He immigrated to South Vietnam in 1954 after the Geneva Conference split Vietnam into the communist North and democratic South. A rather intriguing figure, reliable details of his life are difficult to find. It seems that before 1975 he worked various positions as a lecturer, journalist, and political theorist. After the communist victory in 1975, he was put in a concentration camp for anti-government activity. After release, he wandered around homeless, working menial jobs such as tending cattle. According to some sources, he passed away in 2009 in a Buddhist temple, while weaning himself from alcoholism that had plagued his entire life. His one collection of poetry, “Written in the state of Qin” (秦中作, Tần trung tác) is a collection of Chinese poetry which he then translated himself into Vietnamese poetry. The title of the collection compares communist Vietnam to the tyrannical Qin dynasty. He also went by the pen name (號, hiệu) Ma Tửu (魔酒).

天涯折劍

折劍孤身安抗敵
餘生空手惡徒交
殘衣落色心難變
白髮衰時願豈拋
含恨不能扶漢室
吞羞甘受佐張曹
人心民氣今求激
袖手旁觀可笑嘲

Thiên nha chiết kiếm

Chiết kiếm cô thân an kháng địch
Dư sinh không thủ ác đồ giao
Tàn y lạc sắc tâm nan biến
Bạch phát suy thời nguyện khởi phao
Hàm hận bất năng phù Hán thất
Thôn tu cam thụ tá Trương tào
Nhân tâm dân khí kim cầu kích
Tụ thủ bàng quan khả tiếu trào

A broken sword at the edge of the sky

With a broken sword, how can one man fight the enemy
Empty-handed, my remaining life is surrendered to evil men
Though my tattered shirt has faded, my heart cannot change
My white hair has thinned, but how can my ambitions be abandoned
I swallow regret that I was unable to aid the house of Han
Swallowing my shame, I must accept to aid the Zhang rebels
Men’s hearts and the people’s spirits are now in exultation
In leisure, everything that I see is a farce

Notes:

-This poem was written in 1989

– “the house of Han” (漢室, Hán thất) refers to the South Vietnamese government

-Zhang rebels (張曹, Trương tào) is a reference to a petty group of rebels during the Eastern Han dynasty. In this poem it is a reference to the Communists.

 

23161844_docchu

Phạm Quý Thích (范貴適 , 1760-1825) was a minister of the Lê dynasty. He was born in the province of Hải Dương. After the collapse of the Lê dynasty and the founding of the Nguyễn dynasty, he was summoned on various occasions by several emperors to serve in the imperial court. These requests he either declined, citing illness, or temporarily undertook before retiring soon after. He spent the remainder of his life in seclusion, teaching in the privacy of his home. Among his students was Nguyễn Văn Siêu (阮文超, 1799-1872), one of the most accomplished poets of the Nguyễn dynasty. Though he did not write poetry in Vietnamese, Phạm Quý Thích was among the first supporters and promoters of Nguyễn Du’s (阮攸, 1766-1820) famous Vietnamese poem, Đoạn Trường Tân Thanh (斷腸新聲). A classical Chinese poem, which he wrote as a preface to one of the first block-printings of this work, is probably his best known work (see above picture). His courtesy name (字, tự) was Dữ Đạo (與道), and his pen names (號 , hiệu) included Lập Trai (立齋) and Thảo Đường cư sĩ (草堂居士). The famous and influential author Phạm Quỳnh (范瓊, 1892-1945) in his posthumously published essays Hoa Đường tùy bút (華堂隨筆) also lists Hoa Đường (華堂) as one of his pen names.

書懷

故國山河已大殊
故園松菊半荒蕪
茫茫天地還逋客
擾擾風塵自腐儒
病骨平分秋嶺瘦
臣心仍伴月輪孤
有人勸我杯中趣
為問三閭肯醉無

Thư Hoài

Cố quốc san hà dĩ đại thù
Cố viên tùng cúc bán hoang vu
Mang mang thiên địa hoàn bô khách
Nhiễu nhiễu phong trần tự hủ nho
Bệnh cốt bình phân thu lĩnh sấu
Thần tâm nhưng bạn nguyệt luân cô
Hữu nhân khuyến ngã bôi trung thú
Vị vấn Tam Lư khẳng túy vô

Recording my feelings

Mountains and rivers of the old realm have completely changed
In my old garden, the pines and chrysanthemums are half overrun with weeds
In the vastness of heaven and earth, I am once again a lone traveler
Amidst swirling wind and dust a single useless scholar
My sick bones are as haggard as the autumn mountaintop
A servant’s heart’s only companion is the lonely moon
Some recommend me to take pleasure in drink
I ask: Would San Lu ever consent to being drunk?

 

Notes:

-San Lu (三閭, Tam Lư) is a reference to Qu-yuan (屈原, Khuất Nguyên, 343-278 B.C.) who famously said “The whole world is polluted, I alone am clean. All men are intoxicated, I alone am alert” (舉世皆濁我獨清眾人皆醉我獨醒, Cử thế giai trọc ngã đọc thanh, chúng nhân giai túy ngã độc tỉnh).

song lam3

Nguyễn Du (阮攸, 1766-1820) was a military adviser, mandarin, ambassador, and poet of the  transitional period between the end of the Lê dynasty (1427-1789) and the early Nguyễn dynasty (1802-1945). His birthplace was the village of Tiên Điền (仙田) in the district of Nghi Xuân (宜春), of the province Hà Tĩnh (河静). His father, Nguyễn Nghiễm (阮儼, 1708-1776) was a former prime minister of the Lê dynasty, but passed away when the poet was still a child. His mother passed away only a few years later. Hence, Du grew up in poverty under the care of an older brother. He is widely regarded as the greatest Vietnamese poet for his work Đoạn Trường Tân Thanh (斷腸新聲) which is a Vietnamese poetic adaption of a Ming dynasty novel. His courtesy name (字, tự) was Tố Như (素如), and his pen-names (號, hiệu) included Thanh Hiên (清軒) and Hồng Sơn lạp hộ (鴻山獵戶) . His Chinese poetry is divided between several collections: Thanh Hiên Thi Tập (清軒詩集), Nam Trung Tạp Ngâm (南中雜吟), and Bắc Hành Tạp Lục (北行雜錄). The following poem was written after dreaming of his deceased wife.

記夢

逝水日夜流
遊子行未歸
經年不相見
何以慰相思
夢中分明見
尋我江之湄
顏色是疇昔
衣飭多參差
始言苦病患
繼言久別離
帶泣不終語
彷彿如隔帷
平生不識路
夢魂還是非
疊山多虎廌
藍水多蛟螭
道路險且惡
弱質將何依
夢來孤燈清
夢去寒風吹
美人不相見
柔情亂如絲
空屋漏斜月
照我單裳衣

Ký Mộng

Thệ thuỷ nhật dạ lưu
Du tử hành vị quy
Kinh niên bất tương kiến
Hà dĩ ủy tương ti
Mộng trung phân minh kiến
Tầm ngã giang chi mi
Nhan sắc thị trù tích
Y sức đa sâm si
Thuỷ ngôn khổ bệnh hoạn
Kế ngôn cửu biệt ly
Đới khấp bất chung ngữ
Phảng phất như cách duy
Bình sinh bất thức lộ
Mộng hồn hoàn thị phi
Điệp sơn đa hổ trĩ
Lam thuỷ đa giao ly
Đạo lộ hiểm thả ác
Nhược chất tương hà y
Mộng lai cô đăng thanh
Mộng khứ hàn phong xuy
Mỹ nhân bất tương kiến
Nhu tình loạn như ty
Không ốc lậu tà nguyệt
Chiếu ngã đan thường y

Recording a dream

The river flows on day and night
But this traveler has not yet returned
Separated for so many years
What is left to console our longing?
In a dream I clearly saw you
Searching for me by the riverside
Your face was just like old
But your robes were wrinkled and loose
First you spoke of the pains of illness
Then of our long separation
Choked with tears, your words were stopped
You were indistinct as though behind a curtain
During life you did not know the way here
How could my dream really be true?
The Điệp mountains are filled with vicious beasts
Lam river is full of serpents
The road is so dangerous and treacherous
Being so frail, how could you find help along the way?
When my dream came the lonely candle was still bright
When my dream left, only a cold wind was blowing
I could no longer see your beautiful face
My heart was torn like ribbons
The waning moon entered into my empty room
Shining on my thin robes.

Notes:

– the Lam river (藍水, Lam thủy) flows through Nghi Xuân (宜春) district and is also known by other names such as Lam Giang (藍江) and Thanh Long Giang (青龍江). It is shown in the above picture.

Đào Tấn (陶晉 , 1845-1907) was an Nguyễn dynasty mandarin, poet, and arranger of classical Vietnamese opera. He was born in the province of Bình Định (平定), a descendant of  Đào Duy Từ (陶維慈, 1572-1634), a major military strategist, advisor, and mandarin who achieved great merit in helping lord Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên (阮福源, 1563-1635) establish a stronghold in southern Vietnam immediately preceding the Trịnh-Nguyễn war (鄭阮紛爭, Trịnh-Nguyễn phân tranh) which lasted until the end of the 18th century. His courtesy name (字, tự) was Chỉ Thúc (止叔) and his pen-names (號, hiệu) were Mộng Mai (夢梅) and Mai Tăng (梅僧). His first opera was completed when he only nineteen yeas old and brought him immediate fame.Though remembered today primarily for his operas, the text of which is written in a combination of classical Chinese and Vietnamese, he also left behind a collection of poetry and lyrics (詞, từ) in classical Chinese.

小重山

月滿江城秋夜長
西風吹不斷
桂花香
碧天如水露花涼
人難見
有淚在羅裳

何許雁南翔
堪憐一片影
落瀟湘
百年身世費思量
空回首
故國渺蒼茫

Tiểu trùng san

Nguyệt mãn giang thành thu dạ trường
Tây phong xuy bất đoạn
Quế hoa hương
Bích thiên như thủy lộ hoa lương
Nhân nan kiến
Hữu lệ tại la thường

Hà hử nhạn nam tường
Kham liên nhất phiến ảnh
Lạc Tiêu Tương
Bách niên thân thế phí tư lường
Không hồi thủ
Cố quốc diểu thương mang

To the tune of “Hsiao chong shan”

Moonlight fills the riverside city, the autumn night grows long
The west wind blows without end
Cassia flowers are fragrant
The blue sky is like water, covered in dew, flowers grow cold
Friends are difficult to meet
Tears fall on my thin robes.

To what place do the geese fly south?
How pitiable, this single shadow
Falling along the Hsiao-hsiang river
This lifetime of a hundred years is wasted in anxious worry
In vain turn my head and look back
The old country is lost in a vast haze

Notes:

– Hsiao chong shan (小重山, Tiểu trùng san), the name of a lyric (詞, từ) originating in the Song (宋, Tống) dynasty

-Hsiao Hsiang (瀟湘, Tiêu Tương) the name of two rivers in China, in poetry used to reference separation and the sorrow of parting.

huynhthuckhang2

 

Hùynh Thúc Kháng (黃叔抗, 1876-1947) was an anti-colonialist and leader of the Modernization (維新, Duy Tân) movement during the final years of Nguyễn dynasty. His was born in the village of Thạnh Bình (晟平) of Tiên Phước (仙福) district in the modern-day province of Quảng Nam (廣南). His pen-name (號, hiệu) was Mính Viên (茗園). Though he passed at the top of the imperial examinations, he did not serve as a mandarin. Instead, he cooperated with other anti-colonialists in promoting modernization of the country and breaking free from the French. For these activities, he was imprisoned by the French on Côn Lôn (昆侖) island for thirteen years from 1908 until 1921. Several of his poems (both in Chinese and Vietnamese) survive.

 

囚中況

長夜漫漫滯曙暉
妖雲成陣滿空飛
幾囘呵壁吟哀郢
又此中泥賦式微
馬齒崔人頻顧影
蟬聲到枕一沾衣
登山臨水無窮意
客與寒秋一度歸

Tù trung huống

Trường dạ man man trệ thự huy
Yêu vân thành trận mãn không phi
Kỷ hồi a bích ngâm Ai Dĩnh
Hựu thử trung nê phú Thức Vi
Mã xỉ thôi nhân tần cố ảnh
Thiền thanh đáo chẩm nhất triêm y
Đăng san lâm thủy vô cùng ý
Khách dữ hàn thu nhất độ quy

Feelings in prison

The long night is endless, daybreak faraway.
Ominous clouds gather, filling the sky.
How many times have I talked to the wall, reciting Ai-ying
Once again, stuck in this filth, I sing Shi-wei
Horses’ teeth compel one to look at his shadow
The sound of cicadas reaches my pillow, tears soak my robe.
Climbing mountains and crossing rivers, my thoughts are endless.
A traveler returns along with the cold autumn.

 

Notes:

– Ai-ying (哀郢, Ai Dĩnh), the title of a poem written by Qu Yuan (屈原, Khuất Nguyên) before being exiled.

-Shi-wei (式微, Thức Vi) the name of a poem from the Book of Poetry (詩經, Thi Kinh):

式微式微
胡不歸
微君之躬
胡為乎泥中

Thức vi thức vi
Hồ bất quy
Vi quân chi cung
Hồ vi hồ nê trung

Reduced! Reduced!
Why not return?
If it were not for your person, O prince,
How should we be here in the mire?

(translation by James Legge)

– Horses’ teeth (馬齒, mã xỉ), in ancient times the age of a horse was determined by looking at its teeth, the expression “horses’ teeth” refers to aging

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