In ancient Greece, the lyre and its larger counterpart, the kithara, with five to seven strings, were played in accompaniment of the singing or reciting of epic poems. Durng festivities in honor of the god of wine, Dionysos, tragedies and satyr plays chosen in a competition were performed in which the chorus sang dithyrambs (choral odes) to a double-pipe reed instrument known as the aulos. Thus, poetry and music were intimately involved in communal events in Greece over two thousand years ago. Over time, with both genres developing and evolving into more complex systems of their own, they took separate paths.
Today though poems are at times set to music, song lyrics are generally not considered poetry unless the lyrics are the works of poets. Nevertheless some lyrics written by songwriters themselves express such depths of feelings and exalted passions in memorable and imaginative language that they deserve a place among poems. Such lyrics exist in the rich repertoire of modern Vietnamese songs, and need to be showcased as creative works that straddle the world of music and that of poetry.
You dwell on the heights, lofty and shrouded in the haze of mist. From the vale below I look at the mysterious hilltop with a sense of deep yearning. How many times have I walked you home, scaling the gentle slope that leads to your chamber of dreams? How many times have I returned winding my way down to my abode of solitude? On your commanding heights, you hold my dreams hostage, you hold my soul captive, you dictate my pains and loneliness. And down below, I can only look up, hoping somehow we will join our dreams and bond our bodies, to the same rhythm and to the same heartbeat.
Why should love be so fragile, yet at the same time persistent, pervasive, and profound, clinging with all its might to the hopes and dreams of a lifetime? When I followed the footsteps you left behind in the sloping path, I felt your presence in every one of them. You were there, and now where are you? Still ensconced in your dreamy heights, or yonder across the thousand miles of ocean? In my wildest moments of loneliness, I dream of you, my heart given up to you.
Let me have my last dream, sweetheart. That there will be a day when we will be together again. There will be no heights to look up to, no slope to dream of, and no distance to cross, for we will be in each other's arms.9 February 2005
Trịnh Công Sơn
Mùa thu mưa bay cho tay mềm,
Chiều nghiêng nghiêng bóng nắng qua thềm.
Rồi có hôm nào mây bay lên.
Lùa nắng cho buồn vào tóc em.
Bàn tay xanh xao đón ưu phiền.
Ngày xưa sao lá thu không vàng,
Và nắng chưa vào trong mắt em.
Em qua công viên bước chân âm thầm,
Ngoài kia gió mây về ngàn.
Cỏ cây chợt lên màu nắng.
Em qua công viên mắt em ngây tròn,
Lung linh nắng thủy tinh vàng,
Chợt hồn buồn dâng mênh mông. Chiều đã đi vào vướn mắt em
Mùa thu qua tay đã bao lần
Ngàn cây thắp nến lên hai hàng
Để nắng đi vào trong mắt em.
Màu nắng bây giò trong mắt em.