Sách hiếm:Ly Chanh Trung: Introduction to Vietnamese poetry (updated)

Lời chủ Blog:  Kỳ Post này được dành cho một tập sách mỏng (20 trang) do  Bộ Quốc Gia Giáo Dục VNCH xuất bản vào năm 1960.

Chúng tôi đang đánh máy  từ từ và sách sẽ được lưu giữ  trong thư viện ảo Di sản văn chương miền Nam, hầu có thể giúp cho những vị nào cần dùng đến để tham khảo.

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l. ORIGINS : THE POPULAR SONG

Schiller, speaking of his poetic creation,says somewhere : “ With me, poetic perception is first of all without a clearly defined object ; that object is formed later. A certain musical mood precedes it and brings forth in me the poetic idea”, (quoted by F. Nietzche in The Origin of Tragedy).

It is not known whether all poetry begins in music, but Vietnamese poetry is a musical fact, for it’takes rise in popular songs which are said to be, according to Nietzche, “ the musical mirror of the world, the primitive melody seeking for itself a parallel dream image and expressing that image in the poem “. (Nietzche, The Origin of Tragedy).

Moreover, our language is essentially musical. It is composed of few words and many tones. There are 6 tones, we might say a scale of 6 notes : the grave tone, the falling tone, the even tone, the intetrogative tone, the rising tone and the sharp tone. Each word, as it changes its tone, changes its meaning.

Thus the word  “la” can mean according to the tone : to shout (la), strange (lạ), to be (1à), insipid (1ã), tired (1ả), and leaf (lá).

From this primitive music was born  the poetical  idea or rather dream which flourishes in our old legends. So our

own culture began with our poetry and our poetry began with our language itself.

The period of the legends is a misty one, full of titanic dreams and fabulous animals, a period when a people still in its infancy was groping for the explanation of things and wondering, about its origin. “ The origin of our people” — so runs the legend -” is the union between LAC-LONG-QUAN, the King of the race of dragons, and AU-CO, the Queen of the race of Fairies. One day AU-CO gave birth to a hundred eggs out of which came a hundred male children. LAC-LONG-QUAN then said to his wife : “ I am a dragon and I like the sea ; you are a fairy and you prefer the mountains. Fairy and Dragon, we cannot live together very long, so let us divide the children between us and part”.   Then taking half the boys, LAC-LONG-QUAN went down to the Southern  Sea and there he founded the Kingdom of Vietnam ».

Like all legends, this one was passed on orally through the ages and. the song, which is supposed to be merely the musical expression of this poetic dream, sums it up, or rather suggests it, in these two lines:

“Dragons’ eggs produce dragons,

Serpents’ eggs produce only serpents “.

Popular songs were perhaps never composed. Essentially, they burst out spontaneously and instinctively from the mouths of the people, in a kind of musical excitement.

Let us hear how a French orientalist, Georges Cordier, depicts the role of the song in the life of the Vietnamese peasant :

“ In all seasons, at all times, this whole people, men and women, old and young, go about reciting verses. The song rises with the sun, and lasts far into the night. At the time, especially, when the din of daily work is hushed, its sweetness moves us more”.

Let us listen to a young peasan’s declaration of love :

“ Yesterday drawing water hard by the pagoda,

I left my tunic on the lotus flower.

If you have taken it, my friend, give it back to me;

Unless you wish to keep it as a pledge !

My tunic is all unstiched  at the edges

I haven’t a wife yet,

And my old mother has not yet  mended it.

My tunic has been unstitched for so long,

Would you be kind enough to mend it for me ?”

Or again, this declaration by a young fisherman :

“As the billow slowly wears away the rock awash,

So thoughts of love, do what we will, keep coming back.

For one bark on the river, how many cares !

How many cares wind and storm give us !

I love you, you with a dimple in your cheeks

Like the hole in a sapeke, you who live on a floating bark,

Knowing nothing of paint and powder,

The bark in autumn meets an adverse wind

Will that adverse wind not sadden  my heart  ?

United, we might sail down torrents and cross rapids,

And one hundred years will see us still loving and faithful !

When Spring is reborn, the river glides on,

The bark drifts, the moon is reflected in the water,

What more do you wish, my friend ?

And here is the girl’s wise response :

“ I am like a piece of peach-coloured silk,

Waving in the middle of the market,

Not knowing into whose hand it will fall”.

Let us go on with Georges Cordier’s description :

“Night has come now, a fine Eastern night, heavy and scented. The village can now, be seen only as a dark mass, darker than the sky. Everywhere in alleys bordered by tall areca trees, along the gardens fenced by cactus and longan trees, there are groups of lads and lasses singing never—ending

From this primitive music was born  the poetical idea or rather dream which flourishes in our old legends. So our …..

(Continued)