Even gravestone can feel painful

Trịnh Công Sơn is my most favorite Vietnamese composer – songwriter. The first thing I love about his songs is the lyrics, but for some songs like “Diễm xưa”, “Hạ trắng”, “Đóa hoa vô thường”, “Mưa hồng”… the music is admirable for me too.

“Diễm xưa” is one of the most famous songs by Trịnh Cộng Sơn. For many Vietnamese, it is the mother of all love songs, bring us the exquisite misery of being in love. The original title “Diễm xưa” can be understood by different ways: “Bygone Diễm” (with “Diễm” is a Vietnamese name for girls, some articles said the girl named “Diễm” is Trịnh Công Sơn’s love-interesting), “Old Charm” (“diễm” means “beautiful” / “charm”), “Old Flame” (some people thinks “diễm” meaning is “flame”). The song also has a Japanese version, “Utsukushii Mukashi”, sung by Yoshimi Tendo (this song is the main theme song of NHK drama “Saigon, came from his wife and daughter” – 1978, and also incorporated into the Vietnamese culture courses of Kwansei Gakuin University).

I think Trịnh Công Sơn’s lyrics are really difficult to translate from Vietnamese to English. They usually have many symbolism and metaphors that only the writer himself can truly understand. The lyrics are so beautiful in Vietnamese, not just the meaning, but also the way they sound, the way Trịnh Công Sơn arranges the words.

Diễm Xưa – Trịnh Công Sơn

Khánh Ly’s 1967 version

Saxophone version

Lee Kirby’s acoustic version

Lyrics meaning (translated by Gigi)

The rain still falls on the ancient temple
Your slender long arms, your pale eyes
Autumn leaves fall, the sound of soft footsteps
My eyes look to the distance, straining to see

The rain still falls on the piles of small leaves
In the afternoon I sit and gaze at the passing rain
Leaves silently fall upon your footsteps
Coldness suddenly invades my soul, leaving me shivering

The evening rain still falls, so why don’t you come?
Memories in the midst of a buried pain
How can we have each other, marks of pain appear
I beg you to return soon

The rain still falls, life’s like a boisterous sea
How do you remember the traces the migrating birds left behind?
Please let the rain pass over this vast region
So the wanderer can forget he’s wandering

The rain still falls, life’s like a boisterous sea
How do you know that a gravestone feels no pain?
Please let the rain pass over this vast region
Even the stones will need each other for the days to come.

2 Comment

  1. His words are the best ones that cooled me down while I was taking the UEE. I remember nights in nights out listening to TCS’s melodies and pondered on my future.

    And that’s cool, though 😀 .

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