[gửi người đằng la] [mục lục] [rừng phong thu]
thiện căn ở tại lòng ta,
chữ tâm
(thảo bút: Hạt Cát)
anh đào (Prunus pseudocerasus), (Prunus serrulata), bạch dương (Populus alba), bèo hoa (Azolla pinnata), bèo (Salvinia spp.), bồ đề (Ficus religiosa), bồ hòn (Sapindus mukorossii), bối, cọ (Corypha umbraculifera), cải (Brassica sp.), cam (Citrus sinensis), cát đằng (Pueraria lobata), cát lũy (Vitis flexuosa), cúc (Chrysanthemum sp.), dâu (Morus alba), đào (Prunus persica), đằng la (Wisteria sinensis), đồng (Paulownia fortunei), đường lê (Pyrus betulaefolia), hải đường (Malus spectabilis), hạnh (Prunus armeniaca), hoa (Betula sp.), hòe (Sophora japonica), huệ lan (Cymbidium sp.), huyên (Hemerocallis fulva), lau (Saccharum arundinaceum), (Pyrus serotina), lựu (Punica granatum), mai (Prunus mume), mận (Prunus salicina), mẫu đơn (Paeonia suffruticosa), ngó sen (Nelumbo nucifera), ngô đồng (Firmiana simplex), phong (Acer sp.), phù dung (Hibiscus mutabilis), phướn (Korthalsia sp.), quế (Osmanthus fragrans), quít (Citrus nobilis), quỳnh (Epiphyllum oxypetalum), rêu (Rhodobryum giganteum), sen (Nelumbo spp.), tơ liễu (Salix babylonica), trà (Camellia sinensis), trà mi, đồ mi (Rubus rosifolius, R. rosæfoliusrubus), trà mi, sơn trà (Camellia japonica), tranh (Imperata cylindrica), trúc (Bambusa multiplex), tử (Cercis sinensis), vi lô (Phragmites communis), xuân (Cedrela sinensis)
Truyện Kiều (Có phần giải nghĩa), Hồ Ngọc Đức
Truyện Kiều (có bản chữ Nôm), Văn Học Việt Nam
金云翹傳 kim vân kiều truyện, 青心才人 thanh tâm tài nhân
A hundred years --in this life span on earth
talent and destiny are apt to feud.
You must go through a play of ebb and flow*
and watch such things as make you sick at heart.
Is it so strange that losses balance gains?* 5
Blue Heaven's wont to strike arose from spite.*

By lamplight turn these scented leaves and read
a tale of love recorded in old books.
Under the Chia-ching reign when Ming held sway,*
all lived at peace --both capitals stood strong.* 10
There was a burgher in the clan of Vuong,*
a man of modest wealth and middle rank.
He had a last-born son, Vuong Quan --his hope*
to carry on a line of learned folk.
Two daughters, beauties both, had come before: 15
Thuy Kieu was oldest, younger was Thuy Van.*
Bodies like slim plum branches, snow-pure souls:
each her own self, each perfect in her way.
In quiet grace Van was beyond compare:
her face a moon, her eyebrows two full curves; 20
her smile a flower, her voice the song of jade;
her hair the sheen of clouds, her skin white snow.
Yet Kieu possessed a keener, deeper charm,
surpassing Van in talents and in looks.
Her eyes were autumn streams, her brows spring hills. 25
Flowers grudged her glamour, willows her fresh hue.
A glance or two from her, and kingdoms rocked!
Supreme in looks, she had few peers in gifts.
By Heaven blessed with wit, she knew all skills:
she could write verse and paint, could sing and chant. 30
Of music she had mastered all five tones*
and played the lute far better than Ai Chang.*
She had composed a song called Cruel Fate*
to mourn all women in soul-rending strains.
A paragon of grace for womanhood,* 35
she neared that time when maidens pinned their hair.*
She calmly lived behind drawn shades and drapes,
as wooers swarmed, unheeded, by the wall.*

Swift swallows and spring days were shuttling by --
of ninety radiant ones three score had fled. 40
Young grass spread all its green to heaven's rim;
some blossoms marked pear branches with white dots.
Now came the Feast of Light in the third month*
with graveyard rites and junkets on the green.
As merry pilgrims flocked from near and far,* 45
the sisters and their brother went for a stroll.
Fine men and beauteous women on parade:
a crush of clothes, a rush of wheels and steeds.*
Folks clambered burial knolls to strew and burn
sham gold or paper coins, and ashes swirled. 50
Now, as the sun was dipping toward the west,
the youngsters started homeward, hand in hand.
With leisured steps they walked along a brook,
admiring here and there a pretty view.
The rivulet, babbling, curled and wound its course 55
under a bridge that spanned it farther down.
Beside the road a mound of earth loomed up
where withered weeds, half yellow and half green.
Kieu asked: "Now that the Feast of Light is on,
why is no incense burning for this grave?"
Vuong Quan told her this tale from first to last:
"She was a famous singer once, Dam Tien.*
Renowned for looks and talents in her day,
she lacked not lovers jostling at her door.*
But fate makes roses fragile --in mid-spring* 65
off broke the flower that breathed forth heaven's scents.
From overseas a stranger came to woo
and win a girl whose name spread far and wide.
But when the lover's boat sailed into port,
he found the pin had snapped, the vase had crashed.* 70
A death-still silence filled the void, her room;*
all tracks of horse or wheels had blurred to moss.
He wept, full of a grief no words could tell:
`Harsh is the fate that has kept us apart!
Since in this life we are not meant to meet, 75
let me pledge you my troth for our next life.’
He purchased both a coffin and a hearse*
and rested her in dust beneath this mound,
among the grass and flowers. For many moons,*
who's come to tend a grave that no one claims?"
A well of pity lay within Kieu's heart:
as soon as she had heard her tears burst forth.*
"How sorrowful is women's lot!" she cried.
"We all partake of woe, our common fate.
Creator, why are you so mean and cruel, 85
blighting green days and fading rose-fresh cheeks?*
Alive, she played the wife to all the world,
alas, to end down there without a man!
Where are they now who shared in her embrace?*
Where are they now who lusted for her charms?* 90
Since no one else gives her a glance, a thought,
I'll light some incense candles while I'm here.
I'll mark our chance encounter on the road --
perhaps, down by the Yellow Springs, she'll know."

She prayed in mumbled tones, then she knelt down 95
to make a few low bows before the tomb.
Dusk gathered on a patch of wilted weeds --
reed tassels swayed as gently blew the breeze.
She pulled a pin out of her hair and graved
four lines of stop-short verse on a tree's bark.* 100
Deeper and deeper sank her soul in trance --
all hushed, she tarried there and would not leave.
The cloud on her fair face grew darker yet:
as sorrow ebbed or flowed, tears dropped or streamed.
Van said: "My sister, you should be laughed at, 105
lavishing tears on one long dead and gone!"

"Since ages out of mind," retorted Kieu,
"harsh fate has cursed all women, sparing none.*
As I see her lie there, it hurts to think
what will become of me in later days."
"A fine speech you just made!" protested Quan.
"It jars the ears to hear you speak of her
and mean yourself. Dank air hangs heavy here --
day's failing, and there's still a long way home."

Kieu said: "When one who shines in talent dies, 115
the body passes on, the soul remains.
In her, perhaps, I've found a kindred heart:
let's wait and soon enough she may appear."

Before they could respond to what Kieu said,
a whirlwind rose from nowhere, raged and raved. 120
It blustered, strewing buds and shaking trees
and scattering whiffs of perfume in the air.
They strode along the path the whirlwind took
and plainly saw fresh footprints on the moss.
They stared at one another, terror-struck. 125
"You've heard the prayer of my pure faith!" Kieu cried.
"As kindred hearts, we've joined each other here --
transcending life and death, soul sisters meet."

Dam Tien had cared to manifest herself:
to what she'd written Kieu now added thanks. 130
A poet's feelings, rife with anguish, flowed:
she carved an old-style poem on the tree.*

To leave or stay --they all were wavering still*
when nearby rang the sound of harness bells.
They saw a youthful scholar come their way 135
astride a colt he rode with slackened rein.
He carried poems packing half his bag,*
and tagging at his heels were some page boys.
His frisky horse's coat was dyed with snow.
His gown blent tints of grass and pale blue sky. 140
He spied them from afar, at once alit
and walked toward them to pay them his respects.
His figured slippers trod the green --the field
now sparkled like some jade-and-ruby grove.
Young Vuong stepped forth and greeted him he knew 145
while two shy maidens hid behind the flowers.
He came from somewhere not so far away,
Kim Trong, a scion of the noblest stock.*
Born into wealth and talent, he'd received
his wit from heaven, a scholar's trade from men. 150
Manner and mien set him above the crowd:
he studied books indoors, lived high abroad.
Since birth he'd always called this region home --
he and young Vuong were classmates at their school.
His neighbors' fame had spread and reached his ear: 155
two beauties locked in their Bronze Sparrow Tower!*
But, as if hills and streams had barred the way,
he had long sighed and dreamt of them, in vain.
How lucky, in this season of new leaves,*
to roam about and find his yearned-for flowers! 160
He caught a fleeting glimpse of both afar:
spring orchid, autumn mum --a gorgeous pair!
Beautiful girl and talented young man --
what stirred their hearts their eyes still dared not say.
They hovered, rapture-bound, `tween wake and dream: 165
they could not stay, nor would they soon depart.
The dusk of sunset prompted thoughts of gloom --
he left, and longingly she watched him go.
Below a stream flowed clear, and by the bridge
a twilit willow rustled threads of silk. 170

When Kieu got back behind her flowered drapes,
the sun had set, the curfew gong had rung.
Outside the window, squinting, peeped the moon --
gold spilled on waves, trees shadowed all the yard.
East drooped a red camellia, toward the next house:* 175
as dewdrops fell, the spring branch bent and bowed.
Alone, in silence, she beheld the moon,*
her heart a raveled coil of hopes and fears:
"Lower than that no person could be brought!
It's just a bauble then, the glittering life. 180
And who is he? Why did we chance to meet?
Does fate intend some tie between us two?"
Her bosom heaved in turmoil --she poured forth
a wondrous lyric fraught with all she felt.
The moonlight through the blinds was falling slant. 185
Leaning against the window, she drowsed off.
Now out of nowhere there appeared a girl
of worldly glamour joined to virgin grace:
face washed with dewdrops, body clad in snow,
and hovering feet, two golden lotus blooms.* 190
With joy Kieu hailed the stranger, asking her:
"Did you stray here from that Peach Blossom Spring?"
"We two are sister souls," the other said.*
"Have you forgotten? We just met today!
My cold abode lies west of here, out there, 195
above a running brook, below a bridge.
By pity moved, you stooped to notice me
and strew on me poetic pearls and gems.
I showed them to our League Chief and was told*
your name is marked in the Book of the Damned. * 200
We both reap what we sowed in our past lives:
of the same League, we ride the selfsame boat.
Well, ten new subjects our League Chief just set:
again please work your magic with a brush."
Kieu did as asked and wrote --with nymphic grace 205
her hand dashed off ten lyrics at one stroke.
Dam Tien read them and marveled to herself:
"Rich-wrought embroidery from a heart of gold!
Included in the Book of Sorrow Songs,*
they'll yield the palm to none but win first prize." 210
The caller crossed the doorsill, turned to leave,
but Kieu would hold her back and talk some more.
A sudden gust of wind disturbed the blinds,
and Kieu awakened, knowing she had dreamed.
She looked, but nowhere could she see the girl, 215
though hints of perfume lingered here and there.
Alone with her dilemma in deep night,
she viewed the road ahead and dread seized her.
A rose afloat, a water fern adrift:
such was the lot her future held in store. 220
Her inmost feelings surged, wave after wave --
again and yet again she broke and cried.
Kieu's sobs sent echoes through the phoenix drapes.
Aroused, her mother asked: "What troubles you*
that you still stir and fret at dead of night, 225
your cheeks like some pear blossoms drenched with rain?"
Kieu said: "You once bore me, you've brought me up,
a double debt I've not repaid one whit.
Today, while strolling, I found Dam Tien's grave,
then in a dream she just revealed herself. 230
She told me how by fate I'm doomed to grief,
delivered themes on which I wrote some songs.
As I interpret what the dream portends,
my life in days ahead won't come to much!"
Her mother said: "Are dreams and vapors grounds 235
whereon to build a tale of woe? Just think!"
Kieu tried to heed such words of sound advice,
but soon her tears welled up and flowed again.*
Outside the window chirped an oriole --
over the wall a catkin flew next door.* 240
The tilting moonlight lay aslant the porch --
she stayed alone, alone with her own grief.

How strange, the race of lovers! Try as you will,*
you can't unsnarl their hearts' entangled threads.
Since Kim was back inside his book-lined walls, 245
he could not drive her from his haunted mind.
He drained the cup of gloom: it filled anew --
one day without her seemed three autumns long.
Silk curtains veiled her windows like dense clouds,
and toward the rose within he'd dream his way. 250
The moon kept waning, oil kept burning low:
his face yearned for her face, his heart her heart.
The study-room turned icy, metal-cold --*
brushes lay dry, lute strings hung loose on frets.
Hsiang bamboo blinds stirred rustling in the wind --* 255
incense roused longing, tea lacked love's sweet taste.
If fate did not mean them to join as mates,*
why had the temptress come and teased his eyes?*
Forlorn, he missed the scene, he missed the girl:
he rushed back where by chance the two had met. 260
A tract of land with grasses lush and green,
with waters crystal-clear: he saw naught else.
The breeze at twilight stirred a mood of grief --
the reeds waved back and forth as if to taunt.
A lover's mind is full of her he loves: 265
he walked straight on and made toward her Blue Bridge.*
Fast gate, high wall: no stream for his red leaf,*
no passage for his bluebird bearing word.*
A willow dropped its curtain of silk threads --
perched on a branch, an oriole chirped jeers. 270
All doors were shut, all bolts were locked in place.
A threshold strewn with flowers --where was she?
He lingered, standing there as time passed by,
then to the rear he strolled --he saw a house.
Its owner, traveling heathen climes for trade,* 275
was still away --left vacant were the rooms.
Young Kim, as student, came to rent the house --
he brought his lute, his books, and settled in.
He lacked for nothing --trees and rocks, a porch
inscribed in vivid gold: "Kingfisher View." * 280
The porch's name made him exult inside:
"It must be Heaven's will that we should meet!"
He left his window open just a crack
and daily glanced his eyes toward that east wall.
Nearby both spring and grotto stayed tight shut: * 285
he failed to see the nymph flit in and out.
Since he left home to dwell at this strange lodge,
twice on its rounds the moon had come and gone.
Now, on a balmy day, across the wall,
he glimpsed a lissome form beneath peach trees. 290
He dropped the lute, smoothed down his gown, rushed out:
her scent was wafting still --of her no trace.
As he paced round the wall, his eye espied
a golden hairpin caught on a peach branch.
He reached for it and took it home. He thought: 295
"It left a woman's chamber and came here.
This jewel must be hers. Why, fate binds us --
if not, could it have fallen in my hands?"
Now sleepless, he admired and stroked the pin
still faintly redolent of sandalwood. 300
At dawn when mists had cleared, he found the girl
peering along the wall with puzzled eyes.
The student had been lurking there in wait --
across the wall he spoke to test her heart:
"From nowhere I have found this hairpin here: 305
I would send back the pearl, but where's Ho-p'u?"
Now from the other side Kieu's voice was heard:
"I thank him who won't keep a jewel found.
A pin's worth little, but it means so much
that in your scale what's right weighs more than gold." 310
He said: "We come and go in these same parts --
we're neighbors, not two strangers, not at all!
I owe this moment to some scent you dropped,
but countless torments I've endured till now.
So long I've waited for just this one day! 315
Stay on and let me ask your private thoughts."
He hurried off and fetched some things from home:
gold bracelets in a pair, a scarf of silk.
By ladder he could climb across the wall:
she was the one he'd met that day, no doubt! 320
Ashamed, the girl maintained a shy reserve:
while he gazed at her face, she hung her head.
He said: "We chanced to meet --and ever since
I have in secret yearned and pined for you.
My slender frame has wasted --who'd have thought 325
that I could linger on to see this day?
For months I dreamt my goddess in the clouds;*
lovelorn, I hugged my post, prepared to drown.*
But you are here --I beg to ask one thing:
will on a leaf of grass the mirror shine?" * 330
She faltered --after some demur she said:
"Our ways are snow-pure, plain as turnip greens.
When comes the time for love, the marriage bond,*
my parents' wish will tie it or will not.
You deign to care for me, but I'm too young 335
to know what's right and dare not give my word."
He said: "It blows one day and rains the next --
how often does chance favor us in spring?
If you ignore and scorn my desperate love,
you'll hurt me --yet what will it profit you? 340
Let's pledge our troth with something --once that's done,
I'll plan our wedding through a go-between.
Should Heaven disappoint my fondest hopes,*
I'll throw away a life in vernal bloom.
If to a lover's plea you shut your heart, 345
I'll have pursued you all in vain, for naught!"
All hushed, she drank in words whose music lulled --
love stirred the autumn calm of her fair eyes.
She said: "Although our friendship's still quite new,
how can my heart resist your heart's behest? 350
To your kind bosom you have taken me --
I'll etch your word, our troth, in stone and bronze."
Her words untied a knot within his breast --
to her he passed gold bracelets and red scarf.
"Henceforth I'm bound to you for life," he said. 355
"Call these small gifts a token of my love."
In hand she had a sunflower-figured fan:*
she traded it that instant for her pin.
They had just sworn an oath to seal their pact
when from the backyard voices came, abuzz. 350
Both fled --in flurries leaves and flowers fell,
and he regained his study, she her room.

The stone and gold had touched --and from that time,
their love grew deeper, more distraught their minds.
The Hsiang, the stream of longing tears, ran low: 365
he waited at the spring, she at the mouth.
The wall rose like a snow-capped mountain range,
and words of love could not go back and forth.
As windswept days and moonlit nights wheeled round,
red dimmed, green deepened --spring was past and gone. 370
A birthday feast fell due in Mother's clan:
with their two younger children, both old folks
in gay attire left home to journey forth
presenting their best wishes and a gift.
A hushed, deserted house --she stayed alone: 375
a chance to see him on this day, she thought.
She set out fare in season, treats galore,
then toward the wall she bent her nimble steps.
She sent a soft-voiced call across the flowers:
he was already there awaiting her. 380
He said: "Your heart cares not for what I feel --
so long you've let love's fire burn to cold ash.
Sorrow and yearning I have felt by turns,
and half my head of hair frost's tinged with gray."
She said: "Wind's held me up, rain's kept me back -- 385
I've hurt your feelings much against my wish.
I'm home alone today --I've come out here
to make amends repaying love for love."
She slid around the rock garden and reached
a fresh-barred passage at the wall's far end. 390
She rolled up sleeves, unlocked the fairy cave,
and cleared through clouds the path to Paradise!*
Face gazed at face to glow with purest joy.
Fond greetings they exchanged. Then, side by side,
they walked together toward his study-room 395
while mingling words of love and vows of troth.
Brush rack and tube for poems on his desk --
above, there hung a sketch of pale green pines.
Frost-bitten and wind-battered, they looked real:
the more she gazed, the more they sprang to life. 400
"It's something I dashed off just now," he said.
"Please write your comments, lending it some worth."
Her nymphic hand moved like a lashing storm
and penned some quatrains right atop the pines.
"Your magic conjures gems and pearls!" he cried. 405
"Could Pan and Hsieh have measured up to this?*
If I did not earn merit in past lives,
could I be blessed with you, my treasure, now?"
She said: "I've dared to peek and read your face:
you shall wear jade or cross the Golden Gate.* 410
But I deem my own lot a mayfly's wing:*
will Heaven square things out and round things off?*
Back in my childish years, I still recall,
a seer observed my features --he foretold:
`All charms and splendors from within burst forth: 415
she'll live an artist's life, a life of woe.'
I look at you, then on myself look back:
how could good luck, ill luck conjoin and thrive?"
He said: "That we have met means fate binds us.
Man's will has often vanquished Heaven's whim. 420
But should the knot which ties us fall apart,
I'll keep my troth and sacrifice my life."
They bared and shared all secrets of their souls --
spring feelings quivered hearts, spring wine turned heads.
A happy day is shorter than a span: 425
the western hills had swallowed up the sun.
With none at home, she could no longer stay:
she left him, rushing back to her own room.

News of her folks she learned when she reached home:
her feasting parents would not soon be back. 430
She dropped silk curtains at the entrance door,
then crossed the garden in dark night, alone.
The moon through branches cast shapes bright or dark --
through curtains glimmered flickers of a lamp.
The student at his desk had nodded off, 435
reclining half awake and half asleep.
The girl's soft footsteps woke him from his drowse:
the moon was setting as she hovered near.
He wondered --was this Wu-hsia the fairy hill,*
where he was dreaming now a spring night's dream? 440
"Along a lonesome, darkened path," she said,
"for love of you I found my way to you.
Now we stand face to face --but who can tell
we shan't wake up and learn it was a dream?"
He bowed and welcomed her, then he replaced 445
the candle and refilled the incense urn.
Both wrote a pledge of troth, and with a knife
they cut in two a lock of her long hair.
The stark bright moon was gazing from the skies
as with one voice both mouths pronounced the oath. 450
Their hearts' recesses they explored and probed,
etching their vow of union in their bones.
Both sipped a nectar wine from cups of jade --
silks breathed their scents, the mirror glassed their selves.
"The breeze blows cool, the moon shines clear," he said, 455
"but in my heart still burns a thirst unquenched.
The pestle's yet to pound on the Blue Bridge --*
I fear my bold request might give offense."
She said: "By the red leaf, the crimson thread,*
we're bound for life --our oath proves mutual faith. 460
Of love make not a sport, a dalliance,
and what would I begrudge you otherwise?"
He said: "You've won wide fame as lutanist:
like Chung Tzu-ch'i I've longed to hear you play."
"It's no great art, my luting," answered she, 465
"but if you so command, I must submit."
In the back porch there hung his moon-shaped lute:
he hastened to present it in both hands,
at eyebrow's height. "My petty skill," she cried,
"is causing you more bother than it's worth!" 470
By turns she touched the strings, both high and low,
to tune all four to five tones, then she played.
An air, The Battlefield of Han and Ch'u,*
made one hear bronze and iron clash and clang.
The Ssu-ma tune, A Phoenix Seeks His Mate,* 475
sounded so sad, the moan of grief itself.
Here was Chi K'ang's famed masterpiece, Kuang-ling --*
was it a stream that flowed, a cloud that roamed?
Crossing the Border-gate --here was Chao-chun,
half lonesome for her lord, half sick for home. * 480
Clear notes like cries of egrets flying past;
dark tones like torrents tumbling in mid-course.
Andantes languid as a wafting breeze;
allegros rushing like a pouring rain.
The lamp now flared, now dimmed --and there he sat 485
hovering between sheer rapture and deep gloom.
He'd hug his knees or he'd hang down his head --
he'd feel his entrails wrenching, knit his brows.
"Indeed, a master's touch," he said at last,
"but it betrays such bitterness within! 490
Why do you choose to play those plaintive strains
which grieve your heart and sorrow other souls?"
"I'm settled in my nature," she replied.
"Who knows why Heaven makes one sad or gay?
But I shall mark your golden words, their truth, 495
and by degrees my temper may yet mend."
A fragrant rose, she sparkled in full bloom,
bemused his eyes, and kindled his desire.
When waves of lust had seemed to sweep him off,
his wooing turned to wanton liberties. 500
She said: "Treat not our love as just a game --
please stay away from me and let me speak.
What is a mere peach blossom that one should
fence off the garden, thwart the bluebird's quest?
But you've named me your bride --to serve her man,* 505
she must place chastity above all else.
They play in mulberry groves along the P'u,*
but who would care for wenches of that ilk?
Are we to snatch the moment, pluck the fruit,*
and in one sole day wreck a lifelong trust? 510
Let's ponder those love stories old and new --
what well-matched pair could equal Ts'ui and Chang?*
Yet passion's storms did topple stone and bronze:*
she cloyed her lover humoring all his whims.
As wing to wing and limb to limb they lay,* 515
contempt already lurked beside their hearts.
Under the western roof the two burned out
the incense of their vow, and love turned shame.
If I don't cast the shuttle in defense,*
we'll later blush for it --who'll bear the guilt? 520
Why force your wish on your shy flower so soon?
While I'm alive, you'll sometime get your due."
The voice of sober reason gained his ear,
and tenfold his regard for her increased.
As silver paled along the eaves, they heard 525
an urgent call from outside his front gate.
She ran back toward her chamber while young Kim
rushed out and crossed the yard where peaches bloomed.


The brushwood gate unbolted, there came in
a houseboy with a missive fresh from home. 530
It said Kim's uncle while abroad had died,
whose poor remains were now to be brought back.
To far Liao-yang, beyond the hills and streams,*
he'd go and lead the cortege, Father bade.*
What he'd just learned astounded Kim --at once 535
he hurried to her house and broke the news.
In full detail he told her how a death,
striking his clan, would send him far away:
"We've scarcely seen each other --now we part.
We've had no chance to tie the marriage tie. * 540
But it's still there, the moon that we swore by:
not face to face, we shall stay heart to heart.
A day will last three winters far from you:
my tangled knot of grief won't soon unknit.
Care for yourself, my gold, my jade, that I, 545
at the world's ends, may know some peace of mind."
She heard him speak, her feelings in a snarl.
With broken words, she uttered what she thought:
"Why does he hate us so who spins silk threads?*
Before we've joined in joy we part in grief. 550
Together we did swear a sacred oath:
my hair shall gray and wither, not my love.
What matter if I must wait months and years?
I'll think of my wayfaring man and grieve.
We've pledged to wed our hearts --I'll never leave 555
and play my lute aboard another's boat.
As long as hills and streams endure, come back,
remembering her who is with you today."
They lingered hand in hand and could not part,
but now the sun stood plumb above the roof. 560
Step by slow step he tore himself away --
at each farewell their tears would fall in streams.
Horse saddled and bags tied in haste, he left:
they split their grief in half and parted ways.
Strange landscapes met his mournful eyes --on trees 565
cuckoos galore, at heaven's edge some geese.
Grieve for him who must bear through wind and rain
a heart more loaded down with love each day.

There she remained, her back against the porch,
her feelings snarled like raveled skeins of silk. 570
Through window bars she gazed at mists beyond --
a washed-out rose, a willow gaunt and pale.
Distraught, she tarried walking back and forth
when from the birthday feast her folks returned.
Before they could trade news of health and such, 575
in burst a mob of bailiffs on all sides.
With cudgels under arm and swords in hand,
those fiends and monsters rushed around, berserk.*
They cangued them both, the old man, his young son --
one cruel rope trussed two dear beings up. 580
Then, like bluebottles buzzing through the house,*
they smashed workbaskets, shattered looms to bits.
They grabbed all jewels, fineries, personal things,
scooping the household clean to fill greed's bag.
From nowhere woe had struck --who'd caused it all? 585
Who'd somehow set the snare and sprung the trap?
Upon inquiry it was later learned
some knave who sold raw silk had brought a charge.*
Fear gripped the household --cries of innocence
shook up the earth, injustice dimmed the clouds. 590
All day they groveled, begged, and prayed --deaf ears
would hear no plea, harsh hands would spare no blow.
A rope hung each from girders, by his heels --
rocks would have broken, let alone mere men.
Their faces spoke sheer pain and fright --this wrong 595
could they appeal to Heaven far away?
Lawmen behaved that day as is their wont,
wreaking dire havoc just for money's sake.*

By what means could she save her flesh and blood?
When evil strikes, you bow to circumstance. 600
As you must weigh and choose between your love
and filial duty, which will turn the scale?
She put aside all vows of love and troth --
a child first pays the debts of birth and care.
Resolved on what to do, she said: "Hands off -- 605
I'll sell myself and Father I'll redeem."
There was an elderly scrivener surnamed Chung,*
a bureaucrat who somehow had a heart.
He witnessed how a daughter proved her love
and felt some secret pity for her plight. 610
Planning to pave this way and clear that path,
he reckoned they would need three hundred liang.
He'd have her kinsmen freed for now, bade her
provide the sum within two days or three.
Pity the child, so young and so naïve -- 615
misfortune, like a storm, swooped down on her.*
To part from Kim meant sorrow, death in life --
would she still care for life, much less for love?
A raindrop does not brood on its poor fate;*
a leaf of grass repays three months of spring.* 620
Matchmakers were advised of her intent --
brisk rumor spread the tidings near and far.
There lived a woman in that neighborhood,
who brought a suitor, one from out of town.
When asked, he gave his name as Scholar Ma* 625
and claimed his home to be "Lin-ch'ing, near here."*
Past forty, far beyond the bloom of youth,
he wore a smooth-shaved face and smart attire.
Master and men behind came bustling in --
the marriage broker ushered him upstairs. 630
He grabbed the best of seats and sat in state
while went the broker bidding Kieu come out.
Crushed by her kinsfolk's woe and her own grief,
she crossed the sill, tears flowing at each step.
She felt the chill of winds and dews, ashamed 635
to look at flowers or see her mirrored face.
The broker smoothed her hair and stroked her hand,
coaxing a wilted mum, a gaunt plum branch.
He pondered looks, gauged skills --he made her play
the moon-shaped lute, write verses on a fan. 640
Of her lush charms he relished each and all:
well pleased, he set to bargaining a deal.
He said: "For jade I've come to this Blue Bridge:*
tell me how much the bridal gift will cost."
The broker said: "She's worth her weight in gold! 645
But in distress they'll look to your big heart."
They haggled hard and long, then struck a deal:
the price for her, four hundred and some liang.*
All was smooth paddling once they gave their word --*
as pledges they swapped horoscopic cards 650
and set the day when, full paid for, she'd wed.
When cash is ready, what cannot be fixed?
Old Chung was asked to help --at his request,
old Vuong could on probation go back home.
Pity the father facing his young child. 655
Looking at her, he bled and died within:
"You raise a daughter wishing she might find
a fitting match, might wed a worthy mate.
O Heaven, why inflict such woes on us?
Who slandered us to tear our home apart? 660
1 would not mind the ax for these old bones,
but how can I endure my child's ordeal?
Death now or later happens only once --
I'd rather pass away than suffer so."
After he'd said those words he shed more tears 665
and made to knock his head against a wall.
They rushed to stop him, then she softly spoke
and with some words of comfort calmed him down:
"What is she worth, a stripling of a girl
who's not repaid one whit a daughter's debts? 670
Ying once shamed me, petitioning the throne --*
could I fall short of Li who sold herself?*
As it grows old, the cedar is a tree*
that singly shoulders up so many boughs.
If moved by love you won't let go of me, 675
I fear a storm will blow and blast our home.
You'd better sacrifice just me --one flower
will turn to shreds, but green will stay the leaves.
Whatever lot befalls me I accept --
think me a blossom nipped when budding green. 680
Let no wild notions run around your head
or you shall wreck our home and hurt yourself."
Words of good sense sank smoothly in his ear --
they stared at one another, pouring tears.
Outside, that Scholar Ma appeared again -- 685
they signed the contract, silver then changed hands.
A wanton god, the Old Man of the Moon,*
at random tying couples with his threads!
When money's held in hand it's no great trick
swaying men's hearts and turning black to white. 690
Old Chung did all he could and gave all help:
gifts once presented, charges were dismissed.

Her family's woes were settled for a time,
but now the bridal hour drew on apace.
Alone, she huddled by the midnight lamp, 695
with tear-soaked gown and sorrow-withered hair:
"No matter what fate deals me, I will grieve
for him who's steadfast kept the vow he swore.
How much he toiled and strove to win my love!
But grown attached to me, he's marred his life. 700
The cup we both drank from has barely dried
when I now break my oath and play him false.
In far-away Liao-yang how can he guess
our union's torn asunder by my hand?
(The Tale of Kieu, by Nguyen Du)

Huynh, trans. The Tale of Kieu.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983. Pp. 3-37, odd.
(♫ lẩy Kiều, btcTV)
(The Tale of Kieu. Huynh, trans., Pp. 3-37, odd.
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.)

Copyleft 2004-2005. nhóm huê diệp chi, "Bách Thảo Trong Thi Ca".