Ma Xuân Đạo – A broken sword at the edge of the sky



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).



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


-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.


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