Nguyễn Du – Recording a Dream

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.



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.


– 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.


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