Vè: The Spirit of Rectitude

Ve Vietnam

This Vè was composed after the fall of Hanoi (1882). It sings the praises of heroic Governor Hoang Dieu, who symbolized rectitude and patriotism, while attacking the traitors and faint-heart mandarins who fled or worked with the enemy.

The Ve of Vietnam
The Ve of Vietnam

Below we give some excerpts from ‘The Spirit of Rectitude” (Ha Thanh chinh khi ca):
The Spirit of Rectitude
Inspiration of the Universe, moves
And takes form,
So the great sun is born.
The stars, mountains and rivers,

In humanity it shapes greatness of soul
Faithfulness, firmness of mind,
Courage red like crimson cinnabar,
Loyalty without flaw,
True as pure metal
That is tried and proven.

Be you born under good star or bad,
Fated lucky or the reverse
All that matters is that you should hold that essence of heroes
Which through a thousand generations lives and grows,
Like the legend you find graven in the heart
Of the green bamboo.

… Now came the hour that “Radiant Light”
Our Governor alone had thought to pay
That debt of rice and shelter
That each son owes his land.
He only against all stood forth
Armed and determined
To rally the forces of his men.

To defend our fathers’ land
He only grasped the lead
He only, having ever in his mind
The King, symbol of the sky,
Who is above us all.
Wind and rain fall upon us
To our distress and sorrow.

Later he with steeled courage armed
And deep red heart
To wash his honor clean
From this defeat and loss,
Showing once more his loyalty to the crown;
Determines to give up his life
And spirit to the branches of a tree.

Now in the everlasting heavens,
Seas infinite and lands immense
In this great Universe he has for witnesses
Forever mount Nung and river Nhi
He, alas, victim
Of the sorry plight
Confounding his dear land
Shall, as a hero good and true,
Inspire all by his spirit
With feelings of pride and tenderness.

We will together contribute
For his burial rites
Our common fund of sorrow
Of mourning and of grief,

Before the fallen citadel
Lie flowers withered and trampled leaves..