EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that this lyric was not written by Đào Tấn. I have been basing my translations/annotations of Đào Tấn’s lyrics on a book published several decades ago. I noticed that some of the lyrics attributed to him in this book were actually lyrics from other authors. After making this post, a friend pointed out that the researchers that compiled that book were mistaken in attributing these lyrics to Đào Tấn. Đào Tấn compiled a collection of lyrics from various dynasties, possibly to recycle in his operas. However, the compilers of this book mistakenly thought that this collection, titled Mộng Mai lyric collection (夢梅詞錄 , Mộng Mai từ lục) was a collection of Đào Tấn’s compositions. This type of mistaken attribution was actually fairly common before the information age where these issues can be researched with ease. This lyric to the tune of “Ju meng ling” was actually written by a Song dynasty author, Wu Chien (吳潛 Ngô Tiềm , 1195-1262).
Đào Tấn (陶晉 , 1845-1907), courtesy name (字, tự) Chỉ Thúc (止叔) was an Nguyễn dynasty official, poet, and arranger of classical Vietnamese opera. Several of his poetic compositions have previously been covered on this blog. The Festival of Pure Light (清明節 , Thanh Minh tiết) is a festival day traditionally observed in Vietnam, China, Korea, and Japan. One important observance associated with this festival is the visiting of ancestral burial grounds to sweep clean the tombs of one’s forefathers (掃墓 , tảo mộ). Each year the date of the festival is determined by the Spring Equinox; this year the festival recently passed on the 5th of April. Though this festival is not considered an official holiday in modern Vietnam, there are many poems that reference its importance in Vietnamese culture.
Như mộng lệnh
Sáp biến môn tiền dương liễu
Hựu thị Thanh Minh thời hậu
Tuế nguyệt bất nhiêu nhân
Mấn ảnh tinh tinh tri phủ
Thả tận nhất bôi xuân tửu
To the tune of “Ju meng ling”
The front door is covered with willows
Once again it is time for the Pure Light festival
Years and months have no mercy for men
My hair has become speckled with gray, don’t you know?
Don’t you know?
Don’t you know?
Let us finish this goblet of spring wine
This lyric was translated into Vietnamese by poet Ngô Xuân Diệu (吳春妙 , 1916-1985):
Trước cửa cắm đầy liễu biếc
Lại đã Thanh Minh sang tiết
Năm tháng chẳng tha người
Ánh tóc bạc rồi có biết
Cạn một chén xuân cho hết