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November 22 , 2010

The Soul of Poetry Inside Kim-Van-Kieu


Kim-Van-Kieu, for centuries, has been regarded by the Vietnamese as the most beautiful jewel in painting the sentimental tenderness of the human soul.

Edited in the early 1813’s, this masterpiece of 3250 verses was structured in a particular form of prosody that has become since then a cherished anthem of Vietnamese poetry.

The story concerns a maiden endowed with mental and bodily graces; an elite who, placed between love and filial devotion, deliberately chose the harder way: she sold herself to save her father, a victim of an unjust calamity. And from that day on, she passed from one misfortune to another until she sank into the most abject depravity. But, like the lotus, after a long chain of stormy winds, she succeeded in elevating herself and preserving the pure perfume of her original soul.

Homesickness seemed to carry away

Her soul toward the forlorn clouds of Tsin.

“My poor old parents! Both now must be quite old!

“Since my departure, has their grievance

“Subsided any as time went by?

“So fast, more than ten years out of sight!

“If they still live, maybe their skin

“Has been wrinkled, and their hair has turned gray

“Like frost-covered as it had never been!

“And the old love! Regretful, I may say!”

Like the lotus torn off from its stem,

Though their former binding had been broken,

The feelings Kieu had conceived for Kim

Seemed to still have a slight venation.


Kim-Van-Kieu 1963 Edition, English translation by Professor Le-Xuan-Thuy, had given the Western readers a chance to taste the delights of a new style of poem-in-prose version of Vietnamese poetry into English.

Forty six years later came into light a fresher gem with a more inspired form, “The Soul of Poetry inside Kim-Van-Kieu”, a vibrant versification of Kim-Van-Kieu by Professor Le Xuan Thuy himself, well known online as international poet Hall-of-Fame Thuy Lexuan, ASO.

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