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From WOMEN ON WAR: An Anthology of Women's Writings from Antiquity to the Present edited by Daniela Gioseffi,and published by The Feminist Press @ CUNY Graduate Center, NY, March 2003. All rights reserved.

Lament of a Warrior's Wife


Translated from the Vietnamese by Lady Borton

Vietnamese love of the home village and the melancholy of separation from a long history of war have inspired some of the world's most plaintive poetry. Nowhere is this sadness more acute than in “Lament of a Warrior's Wife.” The “Lament.” was written in han Chinese by Dang Tran Con (1710-1745), a Confucian scholar who received his bachelor's degree at Van Mieu, the Temple of Literature in Ha Noi.

However, scholars consistently note that Doan Thi Diem's translation into Vietnamese script surpasses the original poem in imagery and poetic technique. Doan Thi Diem's husband left for war in China a month after their marriage. Scholars believe she translated “Lament of a Warrior's Wife” into its 408 Vietnamese lines during those years. Doan Thi Diem (1705-1748) died shortly after her husband's return.


From Lament of a Warrior's Wife

The current runs clear and pure beneath the bridge,
The grass nearby shoots up, tender and soft.
You left me behind here, my heart broken.
If only I could be my foot soldier's horse,
                    my sailor's boat!
The stream runs on, yet cannot cleanse my sorrow,
The grass is sweet, yet cannot calm my pain.

* * *

We pledged to meet by Lung Tay Mountain-
The morning I arrived you were not there.
Only dead leaves caressed my hair,
At midday I heard only the plaintive village lute.
You said to meet on Han Zuong Bridge-
The evening I arrived, no trace of you!
Only a passing wind stroked my gown.
The day is over, my tears are boundless.

* * *

Each year my beauty fades
As life drags on with you far, far away.
You were my shadow once and I, yours.
Why must we live apart?