Drop by drop rain slaps the banana leaves.
Praise whoever sketched this desolate scene:
the lush, dark canopies of the gnarled trees,
the long river, sliding smooth and white.
I lift my wine flask, drunk with rivers and hills.
My backpack breathing moonlight, sags with poems.
Look, and love everyone. Whoever sees this landscape is stunned.
Gray sky. A rooster crows.
Bitter, I look out on thickets and folds.
I haven’t shook grief’s rattle, yet it clatters.
I haven’t rung sorrow’s bell, though it tolls.
Their noise only drags me down,
angry with a fate that says I’m much too bold.
Men of talent, learned men, where are you?
Am I supposed to walk as if stooped and old?
A gentle spring evening arrives airily,
unclouded by worldly dust.
Three times the bell tolls echoes like a wave.
We see heaven upside down in sad puddles.
Love’s vast sea cannot be emptied. And springs of grace flow easily everywhere.
Where is nirvana? Nirvana is here, nine times out of ten.
From Spring Essence: The Poetry of Hồ Xuân Hương (Copper Canyon Press, 2000) by John Balaban
Hồ Xuân Hương — her given name means “Spring Essence”or “Spring Perfume” — was born around 1780 in a period of calamity and social disintegration. Her fame in Vietnam as a poet and cultural figure continues to this day. And while her prosody followed traditional forms, her poems were anything but conventional, but often challenged the male proprieties of her time.