HUNG NGUYEN MANH1
How come Cô Kí died so quickly,
Alas, Heaven had no regard for the Frenchy!
A pubescent girl wanting to belong to two families.
While the New Year is just on its first day,
Downtown people weep over her with red parallel sentences,
Her husband so regrets the profit derived from the rickshaw business2
The young girls scare me to death,
As they vie with one another in marrying the clerks! 2
Cô Kí died suddenly. The death of this young and beautiful woman causes other people to become anxious. People of course associate her death with an act of “Heaven”. But our poet didn’t complain about anything but, instead, he had interpreted that common belief as some ill-natured happening: Heaven compels Cô Kí to die, thus he has no regard for the French commissar. Cô Kí has a husband and relatives, so, instead of saying that Heaven doesn’t have regard for those people, or for Cô Kí herself, the poet had involved the “Frenchy”, who’s a perfect stranger, in her death; this shows clearly that the French commissar, the powerful representative of the “mother country” at Nam Định, someone that has the respect of Nam Định people, is actually closely related to Cô Kí, even more related then any other people. Cô Kí belongs in the French side instead of belonging in the Vietnamese side.
And thus, the name “Cô Kí” (the clerk’s wife) is simply a false one3.
In the two first verses, and right on the first one, the idea of “dying quickly” is enhanced. Being a “pubescent girl” Cô Kí has become a concubine of a clerk and had died “on the first day of the new year. The story of a Cô Kí who’s vainglorious and who lives hastily and loves foolishly is clearly mentioned here. Upon reaching the two commenting verses, we can clearly associate them with the proverb which says: “the dying tiger leaves behind its skin, the dying man leaves behind his reputation”; by criticizing Cô Kí, the poet felt a certain joy (that of eliminating a grotesque personage, someone who ignores all right principles). The way the poet uses to realize his idea is as follows:
Mourning with Tết red parallel sentences (means rejoicing).
Regretting the person that brings about profit (means Happy)
Mourning and Regretting equal Rejoicing and happy (instead of mourning and regretting it’s question of rejoicing and happiness).
Although he had used such biting and satirical words, the poet, Mr. Tú still felt that he ought to give a warning, by means of shuddering with horror before the fact that several other gils are vying with one another to rush toward the way Cô Kí had taken. And this is the content and meaning of the two concluding verses. Facing a situation in which our country was under foreign domination (the French invaders), Tú Xương grieved at the sight of people competing to light firecrackers: Though poor as Job’s cat, people still light firecrackers, Though already ungrateful, human sentiments are still smeared with lime.Lime smearing mentioned above is a Tết custom the custom of drawing lime figures similarly to the custom of lighting firecrackers. On Tết occasion, besides planting the Tết pole, people also draw a bow and some arrows at its foot to rout the devils as we have had the opportunity to explain clearly under the topic: “planting Tết pole and eating sweet porridge”. If the French dramatist Molière (born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) has brought to French world of letters his satirical art, and if the satirical smiles of poetess Hồ Xuân Hương and poets Nguyễn Khuyến and Tú Mỡ… had not domineered over the tears shedding smiles of Tú Xương.
1 Associate Professor HUNG NGUYEN MANH, Doctor in Phylosophy of History.
2 Cô Kí’s husband owns a number of rickshaws and she has to get in touch with the French police commissar who bestows upon her a great deal of privileges . Now that she’s dead, he can not enjoy such privileges anymore.
3 According to TRIỀU NGUYÊN – “A few Tết poems by Poet Trần Tế Xương” Magazine of the Linguistic Association of Vietnam No.1 (39). 1999 – P.14.
BAN TU THU
◊ Source: Vietnamese Lunar New Year – Major Festival – Asso. Prof. HUNG NGUYEN MANH, Doctor of Phylosophy in History.
◊ Bold text and sepia images has been set by Ban Tu Thu – thanhdiavietnamhoc.com
◊ From Sketches in early 20th century to traditional rituals and festival.
◊ Signification of the term “Tết”
◊ Lunar New Year Festival
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for KITCHEN and CAKES
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for MARKETING – Section 1
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for MARKETING – Section 2
◊ Concerns of PROVIDENT PEOPLE – Concerns for Dept payment
◊ In SOUTHERN PART of the COUNTRY: a HOST of PARALLEL CONCERNS
◊ The tray of Five fruits
◊ The Arrival of New Year
◊ SPRING SCROLLS – Section 1
◊ The Cult of The Deities of the Kitchen – Section 1
◊ The Cult of The Deities of the Kitchen – Section 2
◊ The Cult of The Deities of the Kitchen – Section 3
◊ Waiting for the NEW YEAR – Section 1
◊ Before BEGINNING to WORK
◊ The TẾT with TRẦN TẾ XƯƠNG
◊ Vietnam Lunar New Year – vi-VersiGoo