Poem by Jacques Nguyen Hieu Liem

Introduced by Thomas D. Le

With disarming candor, Liem draws a parallel between the speaker in this poem and his imaginary sweetheart. One is into his declining years, and the other still fresh with youth, and flush wish youthful vigor.

What holds in store for the man stands in stark contrast to that which his beloved woman is enjoying. Between the man's outlook and hers the gulf is so vast it becomes a poignant reminder of the inexorable march of time.

Shall we muster the courage to look at time in the face, and like Liem, just tell it like it is? Or shall we simply ignore time's power to ravage and wither, dismiss it out of hand, and like so many who preceded us, advocate the seizure of power while we can? Hatch and carry out a coup d'éat against age, and rob it of its fearful yet even-handed might?

Liem is simply content to bring up age discrepancy, and speak with the wisdom and judgment of experience.



Toi, c'était la jeunesse
L'ivresse et la tendresse,
L'amour et ses promesses.

Moi, ce fut la vieillesse
L'adieu à la maîtresse
L'amour et la détresse.

Toi, c'était le bonheur
L'été, le temps des fleurs
Et les élans de coeur.

Moi, ce fut le malheur
L'hiver, le temps des pleurs
Et des peines de coeur.

Toi, c'était l'espérance
La source de jeunesse
La vie, la délivrance.

Moi, ce fut la souffrance
Le vide de l'absence
Le cri dans le silence.

Toi, c'était le printemps
Avec commencement
D'un amour enivrant.

Moi, ce fut le néant
Avec enterrement
D'un amour mort vivant.

Jacques Nguyen Hieu Liem

Ðôi Ngã Song Hành

Em tuô?i xuân hoa mô.ng
Nô`ng say khúc ái ân
Tình yêu ðâ`y u'ó'c he.n.

Anh tuô?i xê' vê` chiê`u
Giã tù' ngu'ò'i yêu cu~
Tình sao quá trái ngang.

Em ha.nh phúc tuyê.t vò'i
Hè sang hoa phu'o'.ng no'?
Tim rô.n rã~ niê?`m vui.

Anh là ngu'ò'i bâ't ha.nh.
Ðông vê` khóc mô.t mình
Sâ`u ðau tim nú'c no'?.

Em là nguô`n hy
Suô'i tiên ru? bô.i trâ`n sô'ng nhu'.a tràn dâng.

Anh chi? là ðau khô?
Hoang va'ng vó'i cô liêu
Tiê'ng gào trong im

Em là mùa Xuân mó'i
Chan chú'a mô.ng ban ðâ`u
Men tình say châ't ngâ't.

Anh ôm vu~ tru. không
Chôn mình trong tiê'c nuô'i
Sô'ng vâ't vu'o'?ng âm thâ`m.

Traduit par Lý Lãng Nhân
10 Février 2002


For you it's life that's full of youth
Inebriating tenderness
And love and promises no less.

For me it's life that is old age
To say good-bye to my mistress,
To love, and welcome to distress.

For you it's life that's full of bliss.
It's summertime, and its flowers,
A merry heart through all the hours.

For me it's life that's full of woe.
It's wintertime, and sobbing pains
And grief that binds my heart in chains.

For you it's life that's full of hope
A wellhead of all that is young,
Of life so free from which it's sprung.

For me it's life that suffers so
In emptiness and loneliness,
In silent tears cried in sadness.

For you it's life that's full of spring
That heralds that beginning of
A long inebriating love.

For me it's life that is a void
A funeral of something dread,
Of love that is a living dead.

Translated by Thomas D. Le
19 August 2002

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