A cup of water

A poem in Vietnamese by Xuân Diệu
Translator: Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm
Art: Đinh Trường Chinh

You gave me a cup of water

I’ve turned it into wine

A wine of boundless desire

A wine warm fragrant devine.


The brewing hunger in your eyes

In the water I will hide

The scent of our breath, our sighs

A wine that must be consumed.


In the water I will add by far

The wine of a spirit that is “I”

Wine of laughter shimmering stars

The blue stare of the sky.


O! The cup of passion

From the dawn of life

Infinitely pouring

From this splendid life.


Again I will raise my cup of water

Invite you for a sip

But darling, don’t drink it all

Or you’ll be drunk before you know



Chén nước

Em cho anh chén nước,

Anh biến thành rượu nho

Rượu triền miên mộng ước

Rượu nồng nàn thơm tho.


Cái men trong mắt em

Anh để vào chén nước;

Hương hơi thở của mình

Đã hoá thành rượu chuốc.


Anh thêm vào chén nước

Rượu cất của hồn anh,

Rượu cười sao lấp lánh

Như ánh mắt trời xanh.


Ôi! Chén rượu ân tình

Từ bình minh sự sống

Rót mãi tới vô cùng

Của cuộc đời lồng lộng.


Anh lại nâng chén nước

Mời em nhắp môi cho

Em ơi, đừng uống hết

Kẻo say chết bây giờ.


(Sài Gòn – Mĩ Tho 17-8-1975)

Xuân Diệu (2/2/1916 – 18/12/1985) born Ngô Xuân Diệu, Trảo Nha was another pen name, from Trảo Nha village, Can Lộc district, Hà Tĩnh province, but he was born in his mother’s hometown Hoà Phước commune, Tuy Phước district, Bình Định province, where his father Ngô Xuân Thọ worked as a teacher and where his father met his mother Nguyễn Thị Hiệp. he lived in Tuy Phước till he was 11 years old(1927) before moving to Quy Nhơn for school. Around 1936-1937, he attained his baccalaureate in Huế. In 1937, Xuân Diệu studied Law in Hà Nội while he wrote for a newspaper, between 1938-1940 inclusively he was a member of Tự lực văn đoàn, in the same period shared an attic with Huy Cận at 40 Hàng Than.

source: thivien.net

Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the blogger, poet, and translator, was born in 1971 in Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. The pharmacist currently lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia.

By Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm

There's magic in translating a body of work from one language to another.

1 comment

  1. I love how the poet took one of Christ’s sayings, “Give a cup of cold water to one of these little ones” and one of Christ’s actions – turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee- and combined the two and wrote a poem about the cup of passion that is love.

    Liked by 1 person

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