Autumn Impressions
Thomas D. Le

Blazing colors in the waning warm long summer days, the harvests leaving behind stubbled fields, the chilly air lashed by light drizzles, the turning leaves that gradually drop from tree limbs at the approach of winter, all herald a time when everything in nature combines to sensitize the heart to a variety of feelings and memories.

For poets and musicians this is the season that easily stirs up sensibility and inspiration. The passing of joyful summer days radiant with sunshine and the approach of nature's death makes the present moments precious. As if to compensate for the dreariness ahead, nature explodes in bountiful colors, the sun mellows its harshness, and the sky comes alive with migratory birds.

What is there in the fall season that inspires poems and songs in such great quantity and quality? Is there an autumn's mystique?

In its transitional role, autumn marks the end of a period of happy sunshine that fosters joy of living, and endless opportunities to see nature as it should be: bright, gay, warm, inviting, friendly, inclusive, benign, benevolent, and affectionate. Summer's heat engenders an outgoing attitude; it encourages the shedding of inhibitions; it invites the search for adventure in a world wide open for exploration and discovery.

Autumn also presages the arrival of the bleak world of winter, in which everything is just the antithesis of summer. Literature and music lament the passing of happiness, the transiency of the good things in human existence, and the short life of blissful moments. They bemoan the inevitability of winter's death-dealing hand, and its implacable rigors. They regret summer's fun, and look with sadness toward winter's mournful grip on the world, its heartless envelope of gloom, and its frigid cold that is the metaphor of death.

Between these two antipodal states, fall's redemptive value is in its evocative power, capable of conjuring up a romantic world from the gifts of nature. The incomparably beautiful hues of red, orange, and brown embellish the trees. The chilly and comfortable relief from the oppressive summer's heat is not quite the bitter frigidity of winter. Drizzles and gentle breezes are not yet winter's pelting rains and gusty winds. From their boughs hesitant leaves fall aimlessly as if grieving their own demise. Now that summer's adventures are over, the time has come to settle down and reminisce. About past escapades, about the native home left behind, about old relationships, about the good old days, or anything else the heart and mind can bring back. And inevitably feelings well up of fragile love that faces the threat of extinction, and the concomitant haste to grasp and hold on before it vanishes forever.

But autumn need not be looked upon through the lenses of apprehension for its fleetingness. This is also the season of fulfillment, when the harvests are brought in, and festivities celebrate the bounty reaped and months of hard work crowned with success. The harvested fields now covered with stubbles are symbolic of the abundance gained, and with the trees, the fruits, the birds, the insects, the sun, the clouds, can evoke thoughts of romance and tender feelings.

Here is a sampling of songs and poems in English, French, and Vietnamese that explore the multi-faceted dimensions of autumn, and each author's reaction to it. They cover a wide, though not exhaustive, range of moods that autumn creates. My translations into English or French are offered to aid in the appreciation of the original works.

In the dreamy song below, the lyrics are woven around a sensuous theme of love tinged with a delicate tenderness evoked by autumn in the melancholy mind of the author. It is the voice of a young woman in love who expresses the deep emotions she feels at the onset of the season as a reaffirmation of her commitment and faithfulness to her lover, of whom nothing is known.

An Autumn Song

Anh có nghe mùa thu mưa giăng lá đỗ,
Anh có nghe nai vàng hát khúc yêu đương.
Và anh có nghe khi mùa thu tới,
Mang ái ân, mang tình yêu tới.
Anh có nghe, nghe hồn thu nói,
Mình yêu nhau nhé.

Anh có hay mùa thu mưa bay gió nhẹ
Anh có hay thu về hết dấu cô liêu.
Và anh có hay khi mùa thu tới,
Bao trái tim vương màu xanh mới.
Anh có hay, hay mùa thu tới,
Hồn em ngất ngây.

Náng úa dệt mi em và mây xanh thay tóc rối.
Nhạt môi môi em thơm nồng.
Tình yêu vương vương má hồng.
Sẽ hát bài cho anh và ru anh yên giấc tối.
Ngày mai khi mưa ngang lưng đồi.
Cho anh anh nghe mùa thu chơi.

Anh có mơ mùa thu cho ai nức nở
Anh có mơ mơ mùa mát ướt hoen mi.
Và anh có mơ khi mùa thu tới,
Hai chúng ta sẽ cùng chung lối.
Anh có mơ, mơ mùa thu ấy
Tình ta ngát hương.

Song of Autumn

Did you hear, sweetheart, autumn rains and leaves,
The golden deer that sing their courtship song,
And autumn softly gliding in steps long
To bring new love in which we fain believe?
The autumn spirit whisp'ring gently in my ear
Eternal love we swear for you and me, my dear.

Did you know, sweetheart, autumn rains and breeze,
The autumn easing down in solitude?
Did you know, sweetheart, fall has come in peace,
And filled our hearts with new and soothing mood?
The autumn cool and sweet smells sing and dance,
That set my soul afire in drunken trance.

The waning sun lit up my eyes aglow,
As clouds in azure sky blew my teased hair.
My pale and fragrant lips flew in the air,
And blushed my face with love in lovely show.

I will sing you a soothing song, my dear,
To lull you to a deep and peaceful sleep.
Tomorrow rain will lash the hillside sheer,
And you and I will bask in autumn deep.

Did you dream, sweetheart, autumn gloomy sobs,
That fill my eyes with tears and dewy drops?
Did you dream, sweetheart, autumn furtive steps
That lead our hearts to love's voluptuous depths?

La chanson d'automne

Entends-tu, m'amour, les pluies et les feuilles d'automne,
Les chevreuils dorés chanter leurs chants d'amour?
Et l'automne arrivé très doucement nous donne
Des sentiments tendres et doux qui remplissent nos coeurs
De passion amoureuse, nous murmure à l'oreille
Des voeux d'amour mutuel sans fin ni pareil.

Sais-tu, m'amour, les pluies et les brises d'automne,
Qui descendent silencieusement en solitude?
Quand l'automne à pas lents et indécis nous donne
Des espoirs nouveaux et dépourvus d'inquiétude.
La fracheur automnale et la fin de l'été
Remplissent mon âme et mon coeur de volupté.

Le soleil couchant se repose sur mes yeux,
Les nuages bleus se sont logés dans mes cheveux.
Et mes lèvres pâles pleines de chaleur odorante
Rougissent ma face d'amour de couleur charmante.

Je te chanterai une berceuse douce, mon chéri,
Pour te donner un sommeil bien profond et beau.
Demain la pluie battra fort les flancs des coteaux,
Et nous célébrerons l'automne à notre envi.

Rêves-tu, mon amour, des sanglots mornes d'automne,
Qui font couler des larmes de mes yeux humides?
Rêves-tu des pas d'automne furtivement marchant
Qui remplissent nos coeurs de volupté charmante?

Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)

An only child, spoiled and turbulent, Verlaine was placed in a boarding school. After graduation from high school he attempted law, quickly became bored, quit, and drifted from a job with an insurance company to one with the City of Paris. Soon he took to the bohemian lifestyle and alcohol, frequented cabarets and the literary circles. His Poèmes Saturniens, written at age 16 while still at the Lycée, were published in 1866 in Paris, to the critical acclaim of Anatole France et Mallarmé. But his addiction to absinthe caused one scandal after another. In 1870, the year of the publication of Les Fêtes Galantes, he married 17-year-old Mathilde Mauté, settled down, and even got involved in political events. During the Commune he joined the insurgents.

In September 1871, he met Arthur Rimbaud, who had sent him his poems, and now had come from Charleville to join him. Falling in love with the youth, he reverted to his cabaret ways. During bouts of drunkenness, he would quarrel with Mathilde or beat her. When the couple's son arrived in October, Rimbaud went back to Charleville. Verlaine's family enjoyed a period of relative calm. Before long Rimbaud and Verlaine got back together, and they fled to Belgium, where Mathilde failed to beg him to come back, then to London, where his mother tried in vain to bring him around.

With Rimbaud he drank, quarreled, and fought, until Rimbaud finally grew tired and left for Charleville, where Verlaine could not persuade him to resume their wanderings. In July 1873, for having shot Rimbaud in the arm Verlaine served a two-year sentence in Brussels, during which time he rediscovered the Christian faith of his childhood. Out of prison Verlaine went to London to teach French and drawing. Back in Paris in 1882, he returned to absinthe, forsaken by his wife, who finally divorced him. He tried to publish Rimbaud's work, wrote for magazines, and published his own poems, Jadis et Naguère (1884), and Parallèllement (1889). Refusing to belong to any literary schools and romantic that he was, he lived in bars surrounded by young women admirers.

He spent the income from his poems and articles on drinks. His friends pooled their resources to help him out with a monthly stipend. Afflicted by rheumatism and leg ulcers, he spent extended periods in the hospital, where he found a measure of tranquillity. Always a maverick, he submitted his candidacy to the Académie Franaise, but received no votes.

However, in 1894, he was elected "Prince of Poets" by his peers to succeed Leconte de Lisle. The only other accolade was bestowed at his funeral one day after his death on January 9, 1896. The Latin Quarter, whose every single bar and tavern he had patronized, became thick with mourners, who formed an honor guard all the way to the Clichy cemetery, to pay tribute to the inveterate drunkard who incarnates Poetry and has joined the ranks of the accursed poets.

Verlaine's art resides in the music of his poetry. It is this inebriating quality, combined with the finely wrought melancholy, the sadness of love and unattained happiness, the delicate and sentimental touch, that set him apart as a magician of the word.

In the short mood poem Chanson d'automne, which encapsulates his Weltschmerz, taken from the Poèmes Saturniens, Verlaine at an early age sees his spirit sink to its nadir. The star-crossed poet, whose tormented life he was to live on the brink of perdition, lets autumn fill his soul with leaden sadness. The languorous sobs of the violin rend his heart. He cries about the past, and faces the future with the vulnerability of an autumn leaf at the mercy of the evil wind. With just a few words in each verse in three six-line stanzas, he creates a haunting lament that clings tenaciously to the psyche. Let the musique verlainienne then begin. To submerge and transport us to an autumn of melancholic heartbreak.


Chanson d'automne

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l'autonne
Blessent mon coeur
D'une langueur

Tout suffoquant
Et blême quand
Sonne l'heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure.

Et je m'en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m'emporte
Deçà, delà
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.


Song of Autumn

The prolonged sobs
Of the violin
In the autumn
Tear up my heart
With languishing

And listless when
The dread hour strikes
I remember
The days of yore
And I cry.

And I wander
In evil wind
Which carries me
Hither, thither
Like a dead leaf
I would be.

Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)

Orphaned at age six, when his father a defrocked priest turned civil servant died in his sixties, Charles Baudelaire took an aversion to his stepfather Aupick, an officer who was later promoted to general in command of the Paris area, that his mother married shortly after his father's death. Bored at the boarding school he dreamed of becoming sometimes a pope, sometimes a comedian.

After completion of high school he rejected a diplomatic career, which his stepfather supported. He frequented the literary youth of the Latin Quarter, and wanted to be a writer. A family council under General Aupick's pressure decided to send him to India in 1841. Baudelaire, having no taste for foreign adventure, jumped ship at the Isle of Reunion, and in time returned to Paris, where now a major he claimed his part of his father's estate.

He became involved with the actress Jeanne Duval, and through thick and thin remained her lover and support for the rest of his life. With his friends Théophile Gautier, Théodore de Banville, Sainte-Beuve et Gérard de Nerval, he plunged headlong into the Romantic movement. He led a dandy's life, and incurred heavy debts. His family was forced to put him under Court's supervision to rein in his eccentric high living.

Destitute and humiliated, Baudelaire was constantly moving to keep one step ahead of his creditors, hiding among his mistresses, and writing furiously for a living while working on his poems.

After a blotched suicide attempt he temporarily reconciled with his mother. In 1846 he discovered this other accursed and misunderstood kindred soul across the Atlantic, Edgar Allen Poe, and for the next seventeen years undertook to translate and reveal his works.

In the wake of the 1848 Revolution he worked as a journalist and critic. The publication of Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) in 1857, which was quickly judged obscene, forced him to pay a heavy fine. In spite of the support of Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, Théophile Gautier and other young admiring poets Baudelaire isolated himself in bitterness.

His health began to deteriorate. To alleviate the pain caused by gastric problems, and the recurrence of syphilis after ten years, he smoked opium. In his self-imposed exile, he received the homage of two as yet unknown poets, Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine. During his stay in Belgium in 1866 a stroke left him paralyzed and nearly speechless. For a year he hung on tenuously to life while his friends came to his bedside to play him Wagner to relieve his sufferings. In 1867 at age 46, Baudelaire expired in his mother's arms.

With just one book, Baudelaire blazed a trail for modern poetry, by the melody of his verse, the depth of his emotions, his response to the universality of evil, which his proud spirit transcends.

In his song of autumn, Baudelaire reveals a gloomy mood jaundiced by a presentiment of an impending departure from the world. The long bright summer days are gone, yielding to the ominous steps of the winter's death inexorably coming ever closer by the moment. He can hear it in the echo on the paving of the courtyard. He can feel it entering his being with all the force of anger, hatred, horrors to reduce his heart to an insensate block of ice.

His spirit is crumbling under the relentless assault of the battering ram of evil, and the monotonous blows seem like a hasty pounding of the nails into someone's coffin signifying a voyage of no return.

Baudelaire desperately clings to the love of a woman, to the fast disappearance of the summer sun, to the glorious but declining fall, even to the setting sun because they are his only hope of salvation in the bitter present that is slipping from his grasp. The end looms, and he wants to savor the modest pleasure of resting for just a fleeting moment on the sweet remaining rays of autumn.

Poignant lugubrious thoughts for a man who had ten years or so to live!


Chant d'Automne


Bientôt nous plongerons dans les froides ténèbres;
Adieu, vive clarté de nos étés trop courts!
J'entends déjà tomber avec des chocs funèbres
Le bois retentissant sur le pavé des cours.

Tout l'hiver va rentrer dans mon être: colère,
Haine, frissons, horreur, labeur dur et forcé,
Et comme le soleil dans son enfer polaire,
Mon coeur ne sera plus qu'un bloc rouge et glacé.

J'écoute en frémissant chaque bche qui tombe;
L'échafaud qu'on bâtit n'a pas d'écho plus sourd.
Mon esprit est pareil à la tour qui succombe
Sous les coups du bélier infatigable et lourd.

Il me semble, bercé sur ce choc monotone,
Qu'on cloue en grande hâte un cercueil quelque part,
Pour qui ?-- C'était hier l'été; voici l'automne !
Ce bruit mystérieux sonne comme un départ.


J'aime de vos longs yeux la lumière verdâtre,
Douce beauté, mais tout aujourd'hui est amer,
Et rien, ni votre amour, ni le bourdoir, ni l'âtre,
Ne me vaut le soleil rayonnant sur la mer.

Et pourtant, aimez-moi, tendre coeur ! soyez mère,
Même pour un ingrat, même pour un méchant;
Amante ou soeur, soyez la douceur éphémère
D'un glorieux automne ou d'un soleil couchant.

Courte tâche ! La tombe attend; elle est avide !
Ah ! laissez-moi, mon front posé sur vos genoux,
Goter, en regrettant l'été blanche et torride,
De l'arrière-saison le rayon jaune et doux.


Autumn Song


Soon we will sink in the frigid darkness
Good-bye, brightness of our too short summers!
I already hear the fall in distress
Of the wood falling in the paved courtyard.

Winter will invade my being: anger,
Hatred, chills, horror, hard and forced labor,
And, like the sun in its iced inferno,
My heart is but a red and frozen floe.

I hear with shudders each weak limb that falls.
The scaffold will have no louder echo.
My spirit is like a tower that yields
Under the tireless and heavy ram blow.

It seems, lulled by this monotonous sound,
Somewhere a coffin is hastily nailed,
For whom? Summer yesterday, autumn now!
This mysterious noise sounds like a farewell.


I love the greenish light of your long eyes,
Sweet beauty, but all is bitter today.
Nothing, not love, the boudoir or the hearth
Is dearer than the sunshine on the sea.

Still love me, tender heart! Be a mother
Even to the ingrate, to the wicked,
Lover, sister, ephemeral sweetness
Of fall's glory or of the setting sun.

Short-lived task! The tomb awaits, merciless.
Ah! Let me, my head resting on your knees,
Savor, regretting the white hot summer,
The autumn's last rays yellow and tender.

William Blake (1757-1827)

William Blake, son of a London haberdasher, studied art at a drawing school and later at the Royal Academy of Arts. An apprentice for seven years to the engraver James Basire, he read avidly in his free time, and began to write poetry. He married at twenty-four an illiterate woman, Catherine Boucher, whom he taught to read to help with his printing and engraving business.

Although their business was moderately prosperous, their domestic life must have been troubled. His writings reflected the torments of a possessive and jealous wife. He gave drawing lessons, illustrated books, and engraved designs. When the business slowed in 1800 they moved to Felpham on the Sussex coast to work for a wealthy amateur of the arts and biographer. In 1803, Blake had an altercation with John Schofield, a private in the Royal Dragoons, who accused him of sedition, a capital offense during this period of war with France. Blake was acquitted by the court, but the event embittered him against the sinister forces at work in the country, and radicalized his views on politics, religion and morality, which his poems reflected.

Shortly after the trial he returned to London to follow his "Divine Vision," a move that meant isolation and poverty. After his failure to gain public recognition in 1809, he sank into obscurity until well into his sixties, when he finally had a following among a group of young painters.

Blake's personification of Autumn in the following poem is fresh and refreshing. It is a joyful song of autumn, a celebration of a season of abundance and pleasing events. In spite of a difficult domestic life, and a career shrouded in obscurity, Blake did not find autumn an excuse to vent his bitterness or sadness. Quite the contrary, he paints a poetic image of the personified Autumn and its sight, sound and smell.


To Autumn

O Autumn, laden with fruit and stained,
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may'st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe;
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

"The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest eve,
Till clust'ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather'd clouds strew flowers round her head.

"The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees."
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o'er the bleak
Hill fled from our sights; but left his golden load.


A l'automne

O automne,chargé de fruits et souillé
De sang des raisins, assieds-toi, passes pas,
Sous mon toit ombragé, te reposer,
Accorde ta voix gaie à ma frache flte;
Et toutes les filles de l'année danseront!
Chante donc le chant plein de fleurs et de fruits.

"Le mince bourgeon révèle sa beauté
Au soleil, et l'amour coule dans ses veines;
Les fleurs pendent au front du matin, et
Fleurissent sur les joues du soir modeste
Jusqu'à l'explosion des chansons d'été,
Et les nuages sèment des fleurs sur sa tête.

"Les esprits de l'air vivent dans l'odeur
Des fruits, et la joie ailée parcourt tous
Les jardins, ou chante dans les arbres."
Ainsi a chanté l'automne à son poste;
Puis se levant, se ceint, sur les collines
S'envole de nous, laissant son fardeau d'or.

Lưu Trọng Lư

Born on June 6, 1912 at Cao La Ha, Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province, Luu Trong Lu came from a scholarly mandarin family. He attended the Quoc Hoc High School in Hue, then left for Hanoi, where he continued his education in private schools. Eventually he dropped out for a career in journalism writing poetry and literary pieces.

Founder of the Ngan Son Tung Thu (The Silver Mountain Literary Gazette) at Hue in the years 1933-1934, he became after 1954 Head of the Theater Division of the Ministry of Culture and Secretary General of the Theater Society of Vietnam.

His representative works are the poems: Tiếng Thu (The Sound of Autumn, 1939), Người Con Gi Sng Gianh (The Young Woman from Gianh River, 1966), Từ ất Ny (From this Land, 1971), Tuổi Hai Mươi (Age Twenty, a drama, 1973).

Despite the fact that he is the most ardent advocate of the New Poetry, his own works generate a different impression. His poetry is still very much an echo of the old melody, but is very emotionally personal, evocative and genuine.

The critics Hoai Thanh and Hoai Chan judged many of his poems to be lacking in poetic quality, in the sense that they are not artistic enough, but to be mere intimate musings that cause our own hearts to vibrate in harmonic resonance.

Tiếng Thu

Em khng nghe ma thu
Dưới trăng mờ thổn thức ?
Em khng nghe rạo rực
Hnh ảnh kẻ chinh phu
Trong lng người c phụ ?
Em khng nghe rừng thu,
L thu ku xo xạc,
Con nai vng ngơ ngc
ạp trn l vng kh ?

Luu Trong Lu

Les sons d'automne

Entends-tu donc les sons d'automne
Qui sanglotent sous la terne lune ?
Entends-tu les frmissements
Pour l'image du guerrier
Du coeur de sa femme isole ?
Entends-tu la fort d'automne
Dont les feuilles en tombant frissonnent
Parmi des chevreuils tonns
Qui foulent les feuilles dlaisses ?

11 April 2004

Luu Trong Lu

The Sound of Autumn

Did you hear this season of fall
Sobbing in the dimming moonlight?
Did you hear at all the stirrings
For the image of the war knight
Of his lonely wife's strained heartstrings?
The woods of autumn, did you hear
Shaking off their susurrous sheaves
Amidst the startled tawny deer
Treading on the dead yellow leaves?

11 April 2004

Dã Thao

A contemporary poet writing in her Paris suburban home at Bourg-La-Reine, Dã Thao was discovered by the Alabama poet Lý Lãng Nhân in unique circumstances. This spring Dã Thao presented Lý Lãng Nhân with a copy of her book of poems, The Loves of Wild Grass. In this anthology Lý Lãng Nhân found a poetic sensibility that is supremely delicate, a moving lyricism, a felicitous diction, and the candid voice of a suffering heart that touches him deeply.

The poem that Lý Lãng Nhân selected, I Give You Autumn, expresses the cries of a tormented heart, lamenting a love from which only memories of short happy moments of togetherness remain in the cruel present's separation. Autumn is the time of longing, of emotions bubbling in her wounded heart, and the resurgence of pain and anguish of the love that only brings bitterness and profound yearnings that she knows will forever remain unfulfilled.

To Dã Thao autumn does not symbolize the decline of life, but merely an opportunity to send her messages to her lover in their multifarious manifestations laden with a tapestry of emotions.

Dã Thao

Mùa Thu Cho Anh

Em cho anh mùa thu vàng ru.c sáng
Mùa lá màu thay ðô?i ngát rùng xanh
Mùa uót mi khi mô.ng cu~ không thành
Mùa tan võ tùng cánh tim se sát

Em cho anh mùa thu nhiê`u thác mác
Mùa luói tình ôm tro.n ca? ðói em
Mùa ðáng cay chua xót nhu~ng ðêm ðen
Mùa gáng sông qua ngày le~

Em cho anh mùa thu tình tho? the?
Mùa thâ.t buô`n ta ðã có cùng nhau
Mùa ruo.u say cho quên nô~i khô? ðau
Mùa hó he.n nàm yên tay anh ngu?

Em cho anh mùa thu ðói thác lu~
Mùa nu~a vói nghe ha.nh phúc ði qua
Mùa châ.p chón ðê? ta tro? vê` ta
Mùa châp nhâ.n biên giói tình ngang trái

Em cho anh mùa thu lóng tê tá
Mùa co? sâ`u tra?i tha?m lá thu sang
Mùa cây cao thâp nên bóng hai hàng
Mùa thu ðó tay ðan nhau trìu mên

Em cho anh mùa thu tàn chuyê?n bên
Mùa trang trón ky? niêm bóng hoàng hôn
Mùa nhó nhung thuong tiêc dâ.y ca? hô`n
Mùa tình tu. quên ðât trói hiu quanh

Em cho anh mùa thu vê` rât la.nh
Mùa tuong tu ôm gôi mô.ng bo vo
Mùa chua ði ðã nhúc nhói o hó
Mùa suy gâ~m cho ðông sang hiu hát

Em cho anh thu nô`ng nàng son sát
Giâc mo tình ðã tro.n nghi~a ái ân
Dâ`u xa nhau ðành nhu ta.i sô phâ`n
Mùa thu ây go?i vê` anh tro.n ve.n

Em cho anh mãnh tình thu lô~i he.n
ã trê~ rói, ðói ðã xê anh oi
Ngo.n tóc mây ðã che? nhánh ðôi ðói
Gióng sông mát vãn chó anh mãi mãi

Da Thao

I Give You Autumn

I give you the brilliant gold colors of autumn,
The season that turns the leaves in the green forests,
That sheds my tears for a love unconsummated,
And shatters my heart into thousands of pieces.

I give you autumn. Ask me unanswered questions,
About a love that ensnares my entire poor life,
The bitterness I felt through the long and dark nights,
The reluctant existence day by dreary day.

I give you autumn. Take my whispered tender love,
And the deep melancholy we together share,
The drunken bouts to forget the sadly-felt pains,
And sweet dreams in moments' sleep nestled in your arms.

I give you autumn, and live my turbulent life,
Transient and half-filled with the sounds of passing bliss,
To return to the twilight of my solitude,
And accept the boundaries of a frustrated love.

I give you autumn, and nurse my poor bleeding heart
In the tapestry of the coming fallen leaves,
Between rows of trees with their sun-lit summits
Where our hearts are entwined in our claspéd hands

I give you autumn, by the harbor deserted
In the full moon and in memory of passing days,
The longings and regrets that permeate my soul,
Passionate love oblivious of the wretched world.

I give you autumn. For me a very cold life
In love-sickness dreaming desperate and lonely dreams
Of a separation to come in anguished pains
And thoughts of Winter's bleak, dreary and gloomy days.

I give you autumn. Accept my unswerving love,
A love that fulfills your dreams to their full extent,
To face separation ordained by Destiny
I send you my dreams of complete and happy love.

I give you my love, and its broken promises,
For life is waning at this a belated hour
As my hair is taking on its dread twin colors
Yet I abide you by Life's river forever.

Lý Lãng Nhân

For his part this Alabama poet speaks about the deluge of feelings and reminiscences that engulfs him every time fall colors turn his universe into a magic kingdom in which he loses himself, never wishing to return. He speaks of the memories that re-emerge from the depths of his subconscious and the mythical power of autumnal nature at once to enchant and to sadden. When the chill breeze rises, it sets his heart aflutter. When the leaves fall, his longings soar. To him autumn is the creek's water as limpid as a beauty's eyes; the blue sky that is infinitely high, and the clouds that are infinitely white. The yellow leaves that fall to fly every which way on the wings of the gentle breeze. The foggy, foggy dew that sows pearls on the petals of flowers. And - how can he not mention? - the music of autumn that harmonizes the rustling of a brook, the twittering of the birds, and the inaudible leaves zigzagging their way to the forest floor. Above all, autumn brings back memories of years past, a profound nostalgia for what he left behind in space and time.

In his Autumn Nostalgia, he abstracts himself from the present and longs in nostalgic vignettes for the "summer's fire of yesteryear" in the same way that Franois Villon yearned for his "snows of yesteryear." And like Joachim du Bellay, whose Liré home in Anjou sets in motion a chain of memories about his native village, Ly yearns for an image of his native land that is now buried in the ashes of time.

Then his thoughts shifts to a close friend, whom he finally found again after long years of absence. But during those years life for him meant bearing the burden of emptiness that lasted through summers and autumns to the point of dulling his muse and silencing his music. This state of soul could only be alleviated by reuniting with his friend again.

Lý Lãng Nhân

Thu Tha Huong

Lâm tâm mua bay phu~ dâ.m ngàn
Nghe hô`n cô qua.nh mô~i thu sang
êm suong gieo cành xo xác
Ngày lá bay ðâ`y da. ngô?n ngang

Lu?a ha. tro vùi non nuoc cu~
Mây thu bo.t biê?n giâc Luong Hoàn
Ngâ.m ngùi liê~u ru~ hô` man mác
Ghê ðá riêng ngô`i ta tho? than.

Nuóc biêc trói xanh mây tráng xoá
Sông dài la.c ne~o cánh có bay
Lá vàng, suong la.nh heo may
Tha huong cho.t thây ai hoài mô.ng xua.

Bây lâu xa vang ba.n tri âm
Nào biêt cùng ai hoa. khúc câ`m
Ha. tráng ve sâ`u ru na~o da.
Thu vàng lá ðô? mô.ng xua tâ`m

Lâu` tho bay bô?ng chim hoàng ha.c
Chén ruo.u ai hoài chú xch tâm
Mong moi? rô`i ðây ngày tái ngô. lóng nhau lám môi tình thâm.

Lý Lãng Nhân

Autumn Nostalgia

As the drizzly mist covers the thousand-mile road
I feel the loneliness of my soul when comes fall.
The foggy night rests heavy on the spindly boughs
Throwing my heart in turmoil when the dead leaves fall.

Where are the summer's heat, my home in time's deep ash?
Where are the fall's clouds and the sea foams of years past?
By the willows of the doleful lake languish I,
And on the rocky perch I heave my lonely sigh.

Clear water, deep azure sky, snow-white clouds,
Over long rivers see the herons fly.
O yellow leaves, cold fog, and gentle breeze
Away from home let my ancient dreams cry.

For years I have missed my close bosom friend.
With none could I play my silent music
From white summers and sad cicada songs
To yellow autumn leaves and forlorn dreams.

My muse had escaped my parnassian realm,
I drank my sad glass of red wine in pain!
Hoping for the day to see him again.
O how much do I miss his friendship true!

Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869)

Born in a provincial noble family at Milly in the Mâconnais, Alphone de Lamartine became enamored early in school of poetry and literature when one of his teachers read a passage from Chateaubriand. Handsome, bright, attractive, Lamartine had many amorous adventures, which whether happy or not left their marks in his many poems.

After his studies at a Jesuit school (1803-1807), he returned to Milly, where he steeped himself in reading and his nascent poetic vocation. In a trip to Italy (1811-1812) he met a young Neapolitan girl, whom he would recall as Graziella in his autobiographical writings. After a brief stint in the army during the Restoration, years spent in forging a career, literary disillusionment and disease deepened his experience. In September 1816 during a therapeutic trip to Aix-les-Bains he met Madame Julie Charles, with whom he fell passionately in love. He found her again in Paris that winter. The following year he went to Aix, waiting in vain to see her again. She had died of tuberculosis in the winter of 1817.

The experience deeply moved Lamartine, who found it a powerful source of inspiration. During the five years in which he lived through love, suffering, mourning and hope, he wrote a series of poems that reflected these stages of his life, and a deep religious sentiment. Thus appeared the Meditations in 1820, which assured his literary reputation. From the pains of love felt before Julie Charles's death, in The Lake and Immortality (1817), through the sufferings after her passing in Isolation to the subsequent resigned calm expressed in The Valley, and Autumn, Lamartine revealed a profound poetic sensibility, heart-felt lyrical expression and a capacity to touch a generation. The Meditations came at a time when the disenchanted youth, possessed by melancholy and reverie, was looking for internal experience, a rich emotional life, exaltation and mystical aspirations. He gave it an expression in which it recognized itself and a voice, that of Romanticism.

Following his marriage to a young English woman named Elizabeth Birch, Lamartine embarked on a diplomatic career (1820-1830), which brought him to Italy. In 1823 he published the New Meditations but failed to achieve the success of the first Meditations. Then came the Harmonies Politiques et Religieuses (1830), which reflected his religious zeal and his Christian faith.

After the revolution of 1830 Lamartine entered politics, and lost his first bid to the National Assembly in 1831. But 1833 saw him elected deputy of Bergues. His political career, marked by an above-the-fray policy of not belonging to any party, lasted until 1848, the year in which for a few weeks he was in effective control of France. During this period he published among other works Jocelyn (1836), an epic poem, interspersed with personal reminiscences, that recounts the inner life of the priest Jocelyn. From his Platonic love of Laurence, the adolescent daughter of a man condemned to death, who gave Lamartine the opportunity to remember sometimes his own deceased daughter Julia, sometimes Julie Charles, to his death working among the peasants, Jocelyn embodies human aspirations to Heaven by the purifying virtue of sacrifice.

The establishment of the Second Empire saw Lamartine's political career come to an end in 1851. In his ripe years the debt-ridden and defeated Lamartine turned into a prolific writer, condemned for life to the pen, to produce the histories of France, Turkey, and Russia, several novels, autobiographical sketches, and a literature text, all in a vain effort to escape penury. He was forced to sell his native home at Milly and to accept a lifetime pension from the Emperor. Thus ended his life in solitude and exhaustion in 1869.

The poem Autumn (1819) evokes the somber mood of a man who looks for consolation and hope as he mourns in the gloom of autumn the passing of a friend. Lonesome wanderer in the woods he laments the extinction of hope yet keeps hoping. Perhaps when life denies him its blessings, there may still be a soul out there that will find his, a drop of honey in the bittersweet cup of life he was drinking. But his doubts set in. The fallen flower rendered its fragrance as its parting message, and he, Lamartine, will too depart. But lover of beauty that he is, this romantic soul cannot fade without embellishing the world with the sad and melodious sound of his last breath.



Salut! bois couronnés d'un reste de verdure!
Feuillages jaunissants sur les gazons épars!
Salut, dernier beaux jours! le deuil de la nature
Convient à la douleur et plat à mes regards!

Je suis d'un pas rêveur le sentier solitaire,
J'aime à revoir encor, pour la dernière fois,
Ce soleil pâlissant, dont la faible lumière
Perce à peine à mes pieds l'obscurité des bois!

Oui, dans ces jours d'automne où la nature expire,
A ses regards voilés je trouve plus d'attraits,
C'est l'adieu d'un ami, c'est le dernier sourire
Des lèvres que la mort va fermer pour jamais!

Ainsi prêt à quitter l'horizon de la vie,
Pleurant de mes longs jours l'espoir évanoui,
Je me retourne encore, et d'un regard d'envi
Je contemple ses biens dont je n'ai pas joui!

Terre, soleil, vallons, belle et douce nature,
Je vous dois une larme, aux bords de mon tombeau;
L'air est si parfumé! La lumière est si pure!
Aux regards d'un mourant le soleil est si beau!

Je voudrais maintenant vider jusqu'à la lie
Ce calice mêlé de nectar et de fiel!
Au fond de cette coupe où je buvais la vie,
Peut-être restait-il une goutte de miel?

Peut-être l'avenir me gardait-il encore
Un retour de bonheur dont l'espoir est perdu?
Peut-être dans la foule, une âme que j'ignore
Aurait compris mon âme et m'aurait répondu?

La fleur tombe en livrant ses parfums au zéphyr,
A la vie, au soleil, ce sont là ses adieux;
Moi, je meurs; et mon âme, au moment qu'elle expire,
S'exhale comme un son triste et mélodieux.



Greetings, forests crowned with remaining green!
Yellowing foliage on the sparse grass!
Greetings, last gorgeous days! nature's mourning
Evokes my pain and gratifies my eyes!

I walk the lonely path in dreamy steps,
And want to see again, for the last time,
This waning sun and pale whose feeble light
Barely pierces the woods' dark at my feet!

Yes, in these autumn days when nature dies,
In her veiled looks I find a great allure,
A friend's farewell, and the very last smile
From the lips that death will forever close!

Thus ready to leave the span of my life,
I mourn of my long days the dying hope,
And look back once more and with envious eyes
I mull over its blessings ne'er enjoyed!

Earth, sun, valleys, and fair and sweet nature,
I owe you tears at the edge of my tomb;
The air smells so sweet! The light is so pure!
To the dying the sun is beautiful!

Now I want to drink until the last drop
This chalice that mixes nectar and bile!
At the bottom of life's cup that I drank,
Perhaps there was a drop of honey mild?

The future may well hold for me in store
A return of happiness, forlorn hope?
Perhaps among the crowd one soul ignored
Would understand my soul and would respond?

The flower falls and yields its perfume to the wind,
To life, and to the sun, saying its last farewell;
I'll die; and my soul at the moment it expires
Will sound a quite mournful and melodious death knell.

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