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DU, Nguyen

The tale of Kieu

Thus is the way of love and this the way of lovers..

The sensitive skein of the heart, who can unravel it?

At his window, among his books this memory

Possessed the young man Kim. The more he measured his distress

The more it grew, it overflowed. Long were the days of waiting,

Like the long-drawn sadness of many Autumns.

The curtains like a veil of mist held fast their secret,

His dear mirage in the world's red dust half hidden seemed.

Moons changed in the course of the long nights,

The oil in the lamp burnt low,

And ever his thoughts turned to search for the same face,

His heart still yearning for that other heart.

Cold and close as a bell seemed his small room,

His writing brushes idle lay by the lute with idle strings,

Endless the wind sighed in the sun-blind of stretched silk.

As soon as he lit the incense stick scent quickened memory,

Though in vain he sought in tea the elusive aroma of love.

Someday our destinies must unite... why suffer this cruel game?

Heaven, what plan was this to let her cross my path,

A girl so rare, of beauty by which citadels are stormed

His dream was still his torment, memory was held entranced

By the face of his longing and the sweet place where they met.

He returned to behold again that place

Green green as ever grew that grass,

In the clear running stream no glint remained,

Only the cool breeze of evening ruffled his yearning,

The teasing rushes shook as by some passing form.

A prisoner now she must remain,

Locked in the Blue Pavilion and alone

In her young beauty. Only the distant mountains,

Though so far, she felt as friends, and the near moon

Watched at her window. All about, below around

The sand dunes, ochre tinged and barren, spread afar;

Dust from the roads blew a red restless mist.

Morning in the heavens piled bright clouds,

At night the lamp's lone fluttering flame danced in her eyes.

All that she saw, all that she thought and felt

Turned in confusion in her troubled heart

Where is he now who drank love's cup with me?

Day after day he waits for news of me

In vain, in that lost country, under the skies of home.

Love fresh, red and living in my heart still waits...

My cherished parents... How I remember them

With pity! ... morning and evening at the door, scanning the road

Anxious, without a hope. Who now will care,

On hot days to fan them or cover them from cold?

In the courtyard of my home how many times

Has the sun cast his blaze, has the rain wept?

And there the catalpa tree 1 now growing old

Inert with sorrow at the fall of night she watched the waters far,

On the estuary the small sails came and went

Bearing who knows what travelers.

Grieving she watched the running of the tides.

Those tossed flowers on the waves, when will they rest?

Grieving she watched the grasses withering on the dunes

Sky and earth met there in a green that was only dusk

Grieving she saw how the land-wind tossed the waters of the bay

The clamorous waves came leaping to the walls of her lonely room.

The flowers grew richer, their perfume more insistent,

The ardour in their eyes lit in one flame,

Kim's passion surged within him, a strong flood

And now some licence pierced his tenderness.

She warned him... Let us not treat lightly this great love

Now let me speak to you one simple word.

Tender is the blossom of the peach and to the blue bird's coming

Never would I lock the garden gate,

But we are sworn to marry and for that

She who must wear the wife's plain smock her body must keep pure,

If like wantons in the mulberry-groves I fail,

And all unworthy prove you I merit your contempt.

Should we the passing flower of a day thus seize

To stain henceforth the wholeness of our love?

Remember Thoi and Truong's 1 love so beautiful,

Alas the rains and storms too quickly spoiled

Their treasured loves, the too fond willing flowers

Faded before the birds of Spring. Their pinions touched,

The feathers interlaced... already love was fading,

Contempt was whispering in their hearts, their vows undone

That they held sacred once. And so love died in shame.

The lovely Thoi her shuttle 2 should have thrown

To bind, not loose her love. Why should we haste

To break the branch and snatch the flowers?

The day will come when love will answer love.