Wall of old Dragon Citadel, Hanoi Citadel
Song for the Dragon Citadel Zitherist
Nguyen Du (Ruan You)
The entertainers on the mat were all young
ladies, By the mat's edge was a lone woman
with a sigle flower in her hair, Gaunt, worn
down, and rather small in stature. She did
not bother to adorn her haggard face and
scanty brows, So who would have guessed
that this was once the Citadel's best?
My tears silently fell as I heard these old tunes,
I listened calmly but my heart grieved.
I suddenly recalled events from twenty year's past,
And how I once met her by Mirror Lake.
City walls get moved, human events change,
And in places mulberry fields turn into the blue sea.
The Tay Son enterprise was completely lost,
And of the entertainers only one remains.
A hundred years fly by in the blink of an eye,
Grieving over the past, tears dampened my robe.
Returning from the south, my own hair is white,
So it is no surprise that her beauty has faded.
As my two eyes stared forward
my thoughts fell empty,
What a pity that we did not even recognize each other.
Ruǎn Yōu (Nguyen Du)
Xī zhōng gējì jiē niánshào, xí mò yīrén
fa` bàn huā. Huā shòu shén kū gěng
lüè xiǎo. Lángjí cán méi bù shì zhuāng.
Shéizhī jiùshì dāngshí chéngzhōng.
Jiù qū shēngshēng àn lèi chuí,
Ěr zhōng jìngtīng xīnzhōng bēi.
Měngrán yìqǐ èrshí nián qiánshì,
jiàn hú xízhōng céng jiàn zhī.
Chéngguō tuīyí rénshì gǎi,
Jǐ chū sāngtián biàn cānghǎi.
Xīshān jīyè jìn xiāowáng,
Gēwǔ kōng yí yīrén zài.
Shùnxī bǎinián néng jǐshí,
Shāngxīn wǎngshì lèi zhānyī.
Nán hé guìlái tōu jìn bái,
Guài dǐ jiārén yánsè shuāi.
Shuāng mián dèngdèng kōng xiǎngxiàng,
Kělián duìmiàn bù xiāngzhī.
This poem was composed when Du visited the “Dragon Citadel” 龍城, Long Thanh, Hanoi for the first time in more than 20 years as he set off on his journey to the North in 1813. There, at a banquet, he saw a female lute player he had seen perform when he was a young, before the Tay Son had overthrown the Le dynasty. At that time she was a young beauty. In 1813 the old performer Nguyen Du saw astonished and saddened him.
Anyone who has read Nguyen Du’s best known work, 'The Tale of Kieu', will realize this encounter was a major inspiration for that work.