Nguyễn Thụy Đan – To the tune of “Dạ Du Cung”





Dạ du cung

Vũ quá nguy lâu độc ỷ
Tiệm nhật mộ
Đông phong thiên lý
Kỷ độ chinh sam biến trích lụy
Không hồi tưởng
Nguyễn vương nghiệp
Kim dĩ hỹ

Phục bích hoàn vô kế
Đối tàn dương
Hận thôn thiên địa
Thiên cổ trung lương tận thổ tử
Quý nam nhi
Tráng tâm tại
Thành hà sự

To the tune of “Yeh you gong

Rain passes, precipitous tower, leaning alone
Gradually darkening sky
East wind across a thousand miles
How many times have a wanderer’s robes been soaked with tears
Remembering in vain
the achievements of the Nguyen emperors
Now vanished

There is no way to restore the old order
Facing the dying sun
My rage swallows heaven and earth
Loyal and virtuous men of ages past have all turned to dust
I am ashamed to be a man
Still with heroic aspirations
Having achieved nothing


I translated this roughly into Vietnamese from the original Chinese:

theo điệu “Dạ Du Cung”

Mưa dứt lầu cao đứng tựa
Dần bóng xế
Gió đông ngàn dặm
Bao phen áo khách ướt dẫm lệ
Luống nhớ về
Nghiệp vua Nguyễn
Nay mất sạch

Phục bích không còn kế
Ngắm chiều tàn
Hận nuốt trời đất
Tôi trung ngàn xưa thảy tro bụi
Thẹn làm trai
Chí lớn còn
Được việc gì

  1. Linh-Dang said:

    I tried to find what the melody that you’re setting this poem to (if I understand correctly “theo điệu “Dạ Du Cung” – kind of like all of the Cai Luong arias theo điệu so and so from Nhac Tai Tu, right?), but I couldn’t. Any YouTube or mp3 site link?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! The “tune” (調 , điệu) actually refers to the metric/tonal/rhyme scheme of this particular tune which is classified under “lyrics” (詞 , từ). You can read about it in more detail on Wikipedia: The music for these tunes has long been lost. There have been some attempted reconstructions of the melodies. For example, here is a modern reconstruction of this lyric by Khương Quỳ ( – (around the 3:08 minute mark).

      Here is the rules for the tune Dạ Du Cung which I followed when writing this poem:

      平 – bằng (huyền, không dấu) 仄 – trắc (sắc, hỏi, ngã, nặng) 中 – trung (bằng hoặc trắc)

      中仄平平仄仄 (rhyme)
      中平中仄 (rhyme)
      中仄平平仄中仄 (rhyme)
      中中仄 (rhyme)

      中仄平平仄 (rhyme)
      中平平仄 (rhyme)
      中仄平平中中仄 (rhyme)
      中中仄 (rhyme)


  2. Linh-Dang said:

    Ah, neat. Thanks for the explanation. For some reason the fact that the rhythm and rhyme schemes still exist but the tune is lost is fascinating to me. I guess the schemes could be reconstructed from extant lyric examples but no music notations exist?
    While I’m here in Singapore, I’ve been trying to contact musical experts to see if they could help me identify the origins of some nhac tai tu and nhac le songs that are “known” to be from the Hakka and Cantonese peoples. It’s been hard since cutting through the improvisations to get at the underlying structure is so confusing to me. But anyway, I was curious to hear ‘Dạ Du Cung’, hoping for some miraculous intersection of our interests. Cheers, D

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There’s been some research done into fragmented musical examples that have survived, particularly by Khương Quỳ. However, because of the ambiguity of the musical notation, I’m not sure about the accuracy of the reconstructions. That’s exactly how the meters to these tunes survived. During the Tang, Five Dynasties, and Northern-Southern Song dynasties these musical tunes were well known enough that poets were familiar with them and could write lyrics to fit the music without consulting a book. Some poets even composed their own music and set lyrics to it. Hence, for a lot of tunes there are several variant meters. For a variety of reasons, after the Song dynasty, the music gradually fell out of popular use and later authors who wanted to write in this form had to compare extant works from the previous dynasties to figure out the rules for each tune. These were then assembled in books called từ phổ (詞譜 , t’zu pu), which can be consulted when composing poetry in this form.

    Your research sounds fascinating. I’m really interested in traditional Vietnamese music as well.


    • Linh-Dang said:

      Thanks for the explanation. When I have something to show and tell I’ll report back. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • No prob, I also update the Facebook page for this blog more often than I post here so feel free to follow if you use Facebook!


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