An Autumn Poem

Yellow aspen trees in the White River National Forest, Colorado

This past week was the first week of fall. To celebrate the changing of seasons, here is a translation of another one of Hồ Xuân Hương's poems, entitled “Autumn Scene.” Translating HXH's poetry is pushing me to enter new territory with my Vietnamese. In turn it feels like I am going on an expedition as I uncover her works word by word, line by line.

Autumn Scene

Banana leaves, pattered on by gentle rain

What gifted hand to paint such scene

Ancient trees raise canopies wide and round

The river’s surface lies still, glistening white

Drunken on hills, I sip my wine

My bag, moonlit, is heavy with poems**

Look around and you will find love

Having seen this, who cannot be stunned?

Cảnh Thu

Thánh thót tầu tiêu mấy giọt mưa, Bút thần khôn vẽ cảnh tiếu sơ, Xanh om cổ thụ tròn xoe tán, Trắng xoá tràng giang phẳng lặng tờ. Bầu dốc giang sơn say chấp rượu, Túi lưng phong nguyệt nặng vì thơ Cho hay cảnh cũng ưa người nhỉ, Thấy cảnh ai mà chẳng ngẩn ngơ.

** NOTE: This is a reference to a poem bag that, back in those days, was carried by wandering poets and young scholars in Vietnam. It usually held their scrolls of poetry and calligraphy.

After finishing the end of this poem, I got chills because I felt like I was right there in this autumn scene, intoxicated by the beauty of the landscape and sharing a flask of wine with the poetess herself. I dare even say that I could feel her presence with me, a very sassy, wise, humorous, strong woman who I feel so lucky to consider as a part of my guiding Vietnamese ancestry.

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