Le Ngoc Han or Regrets for A Fair and Happy Union

Le Ngoc Han or Regrets for A Fair and Happy Union

If the XVIIIth century was a time of crises and convulsion, it was also that of great hopes.

In 1771, at the Village of Tay Son (Binh Dinh Province), three brothers — including Nguyen Hue, our national hero — rallied large masses of the peasantry into a popular movement which went on to vanquish the Trinh and Nguyen lords and reunify the country.

Nguyen Hue drove the Tsing invaders out of the Capital Thang Long (Hanoi). He married the ninth daughter of King Le Hien Tong, Princess Ngoc Han, aged sixteen, most beloved by her father.

Proclaimed King under the name Quang Trung, he is admired for his military genius and his numerous economic and social reforms.

Princess Ngoc Han, the ninth daughter of King Le Hien Tong
Princess Ngoc Han, the ninth daughter of King Le Hien Tong

Alas, his reign was too short! King Quang Trung died suddenly in 1792, when he was only forty one years old. The fate of Vietnam might have been different on the threshold of the confrontation with the West had he lived longer.

The young “Queen of the Palace of the North”, Ngoc Han, now a disconsolate widow, mourns for her illustrious husband in a poem with elegiac strains.

Ai Tu Van (Tears and Regrets)
Wind pours its cold into the room
Orchids wither on the veranda.
Smoke covers the crypt of the deceased,
The shadow of the royal coach is gone.
Alone, I weep over my fate.
Heaven, why did you shatter our union?
How to tell my misery, my pain
Deep as the ocean, boundless as the sky.
I look to the East, sails glide in all directions,
I see only immensity of sky and water.
I look to the West
Mountains and trees spread as far as the eye can see;
To the South wild geese wander,
To the North mist covers forests with a white shroud.
Though I search, the more this separation weighs upon me,
Will my affliction awaken echoes in that far beyond?
I see the moon through sorrow, its brilliance tarnished,
A fine dust veils its silvered glow.
I am ashamed to look at myself in the mirror
My love shattered, alone, I wander on the deserted shore.
The flowers I look at return my grief.
Camelias cry tears of dew.
Watching the flitting bird, my heart is tom,
A turtle-dove flies solitary, seeking its companion.
Each landscape wears its own desolation,
Where are the joys of former days?
One moment only and the world collapsed,
So life goes, to whom can I complain?
Love and fidelity, as immense as heaven and earth,
My grief grows as my days endure.
To whom may I confide my torment and pain?
Let sun and moon bear witness!