Through wooded hills, sand trails immersed in mist;
cockrow from moon-lit huts; fresh marks of shoes
on dew-soaked bridge. Along the path, at night,
a girl braved wind and weather walking on.
The eastern sky glowed up, lit mulberry groves-
forlorn, Kiều knew not where to find a home.
Then, in the distance, loomed a Buddhist church-
she read the sign: “Retreat of Blessed Peace.”
She made straight for the entrance gate and knocked-
a nun heard her, came out, and let her in.
Nguyễn Du, from The Tale of Kiều (ll. 2029-2038), trans. by Huỳnh Sanh Thông
Under the pestle how terribly the rice suffers!
But it comes out of the pounding as white cotton.
In this world the same process happens to humans:
Hard trials turn them into diamonds bright.
Ho Chi Minh, ‘Listening To The Sound Of Rice Pounding’, from The Prison Poems of Ho Chi Minh, trans. by The Binh Dang
Move with lightning speed in attack or defence:
Talent and nimble feet will give you the upper hand.
Ho Chi Minh, from ‘Learning To Play Chess’, from The Prison Poems of Ho Chi Minh, trans. by The Binh Dang
Today I have walked 53 kilometres,
My hat and clothes are soaking through, my shoes in tatters.
Without a place to sleep, all through the night
I sit by the edge of the latrine, waiting for light.
Ho Chi Minh, ‘Arrival At Tianbao Jail’, from The Prison Poems of Ho Chi Minh, trans. by The Binh Dang
It has never been easy in life to steer one’s course,
but how difficult it all has become now!
Ho Chi Minh, from ‘Hard Is The Road Of Life’, from The Prison Poems of Ho Chi Minh, trans. by The Binh Dang