The Vietnamese girl never complaints about the condition and the role a Confucian society has assigned to her since the dawn of time. From her young age, being used to hearing popular poems incessantly sung by her mother or sister and continuing to grow up with the rhythm and the sound of the swinging hammock, she began to absorb unconsciously the recommendations found in these poems.
In spite of their simplicity, these poems began to give her not only an education worthy of Vietnamese tradition but also an incomparable resignation and the four virtues that any Vietnamese girl is deemed of possessing at her adolescence: Công, Dung, Ngôn, Hạnh (Homemaking Skills, Appearance, Speech Manners, Good Behavior). This will help her to be able to become in turn, sister, wife, mother, grand-mother during her existence. Therefore, it is not surprising to see that she has thus become one of the themes most talked about in Vietnamese popular poems.
Despite her young age, her mother's labor and wisdom have been repeated to her time and again through nursery rhymes the most known of which remains the following:
Cái ngủ mầy ngủ cho lâu,
Mẹ mầy đi cấy đồng sâu chưa về.
Bắt được con cá rô trê
Tròng cổ lôi về cho cái ngủ ăn.
Little sleeper, you have to sleep as long as possible,
Your mother has not come back from the deep rice paddy replanting seedlings.
She caught a carp and a cat fish
That she will take home for you to eat.
Then at 7-8 years of age, she began to replace her mother and imitate her in singing again the same popular nursery rhymes to lull her younger brother or sister to sleep. She also provided much service to her family: knowing how to cook rice, keeping her younger siblings, feeding the pigs and the ducks, taking water to the family animals, weeding the garden, collecting eggs, participating in family chores.
She also saw the change in the nature of her work when she reached adolescence. The nursery rhymes were replaced by folk songs or popular poems she used to hear singing often in the rice field. It is here that she would know the boys of her age. It is here that we would hear the first revelations of love, the first teasing of the Vietnamese girl through poems or folk songs. Among them, this one reveals and hides the blossoming heart of the Vietnamese girl who is shy, tender, and constrained by traditionally Confucian conditions.
Vào vườn hái quả cau xanh,
Bổ ra làm sáu mời anh xơi trầu
Trầu nầy têm những vôi tàu
Giữa đêm cắt cánh đôi đầu quế cay
Mời anh xơi miếng trầu nầy,
Dù mặn dù nhạt dù cay dù nồng
Dù chẳng nên vợ nên chồng,
Xơi dăm ba miếng cho lòng nhớ thương,
I enter the garden to pick a green betel-nut,
I cut it in six and invite you to taste this betel.
This one is spread with lime from China,
And flavored with the spice of the spice of cinnamon ends.
Please have this betel prepared by me,
Even if it is strong or light, hot or mild,
Or even if we do not become man and wife,
Just taste its flavor for you to remember.
That teasing is quick to find sympathy from the boys. To praise her beauty, these boys would not hesitate to offer not only one but ten loves at the same time, which ended up in the composition of this famous poem entitled "Mười Thương" (Ten Loves) that any young men in the old days would be deemed to know by heart:
Một thương tóc bỏ đuôi gà,
Hai thương ăn nói mặn mà có duyên,
Ba thương má lúm đồng tiền,
Bốn thương răng nhánh hạt huyền kém thua,
Năm thương dải yếm đeo bùa,
Sáu thương nón thượng quai tua dịu dàng,
Bảy thương ăn nói khôn ngoan,
Tám thương má phấn ngó càng thêm xinh,
Chín thương em ở một mình,
Muời thương con mắt đưa tình với ai!
First I love your plaited hair,
Second I love your suave and charming voice.
My next love is your dimpled cheeks,
Then your lacquered teeth more lustrous than jet is my fourth love.
Fifth, I love your bra and your necklace.
And your grand hat with velvet ribbon invites my sixth love.
My seventh love is your manner in speech,
Comes my eighth love of the makeup on your attractive cheeks.
Ninth, I love you because you are still single.
And finally tenth, because you reciprocate my loving glance.
The seductiveness of the girl only lasted for a short time because generally for the sake of socio-economic interests, she would be married very early. Many times in the past, there were financially pre-arranged marriages, which provoked criticisms and jokes through the following popular poem:
Mẹ em tham thúng xôi rền,
Tham con lợn béo, tham tiền Cảnh Hưng,
Em đã bảo mẹ rặng: đừng !
Mẹ hấm, mẹ hứ, mẹ bưng ngay vào,
Bây giờ chồng thấp vợ cao,
Như đôi đũa lệch so sao cho vừa.
Even when I had said: No
But my mother, fond of the sweet rice bucket,
Fond of the fat pig and fond of money.
With uhms and ahhs, she brought this guy in.
Now husband little, and wife tall,
We look like an unmatched pair of chopsticks after all.
Despite this remark, she accepted to become a member of the new family and be willingly submissive to all the Confucian constraints commonly seen in the Vietnamese society. She tried to meet the norms expected of her in the new family by following steadfastly the recommendations found in popular songs that she used to hear time and time again when she was still in cradle. In one of these songs, the following is found:
Con ơi! Mẹ bảo con nầy:
Học buôn học bán cho tày ngưòi ta,
Con đừng học thói chua ngoa,
Họ hàng ghét bỏ người ta chê cười.
My daughter! Listen to me,
Learn to wheel and deal as well as other people.
But try to avoid being sharp-tongued,
As this invites hate and sneer from friends and relatives.
Those are the last recommendations of her mother transmitted from one generation to the next through folk songs. The Vietnamese girl tends to keep them and apply them without failure until the end of her life. The Vietnamese woman accepts this resignation, this sacrifice, this injustice without reserve, which makes her an exemplary model worthy of admiration of her relatives, in particular her children. This is also one of the reasons that explains the profound and unshakable attachment of all Vietnamese to their mothers. The situation is illustrated by the following two verses found in one of the popular poems:
Em bán đi trả nợ chồng con,
Còn ăn hết nhịn cho hả lòng chồng con!
I do business to pay the debts incurred by my husband and my children.
It doesn't matter if I have nothing to eat, as long as they are satisfied.
Or in another, the following four verses depict not only humor but also tenderness, outstanding patience, even intangible proof of the sacrifice and love the Vietnamese woman always carries for her husband and her children:
Chồng giận thì vợ làm lành,
Miệng cười hớn hở rằng anh giận gì.
Thưa anh, anh giận em chi,
Muốn lấy vợ lẽ em thì lấy cho.
My husband is upset; I would try to calm myself.
Smile on my lips, I would ask what the reason is.
Come on, don't be frustrated any more.
Should you want a concubine, I'll get one for you.