Lesson 5B

The poetic conic palm-leafed hat

Thương sao chiếc nón bài thơ ,

(How lovely is the conic palm-leafed hat)

Nhớ sao tà áo thẫn thờ gió bay.

(How missing are its carelessly flying flaps)

Dáng yêu kiều say lòng người cô lữ,

(How intoxicating its slender shape on the lonely traveler)

Nón bài thơ nghiêng dưới nắng hanh vàng.

(The poetic conic hat inclining under the golden sunshine)

(Poem by Bích Lan)

At festivals or ceremonies honouring our traditional culture, we often witness scenes of conic hat dancing, e.g., “múa nón Việt Nam quê hương tôi” (dance with conic hat of Vietnam, my homeland), múa nón quê hương” (dance with homeland conic hat), “múa nón hồn quê” (dance of conic hat for the soul of the countryside), “múa nón ngày mùa” (dance of conic hat for harvesting day) … but there is always a lack of the “listening” culture. In order to enhance the beauty of the conic palm-leafed hat, we should think of providing the “listening” culture (i.e., the cultural explanation for the hat, or reading the poems on the hat) in addition to the “seeing” culture (i.e., beautiful hat, the dance).

The hat is made of different kinds of leaves: palm leaves (principal material), lá nón, lá buông (coryphe lecomtei), lá cồi, lá Bồ Qui Diệp growing on the mountain or being grown …

Technique of hat sewing

The stages of hat sewing: sharpening the bamboo sticks to make the 16 splinters for the frame, ironing the leaves, sewing the leaves from top down, attaching to the top of the hat one part called the “xoài = mango” made of shining threads, covering the hat with many layers of oil, and drying it under the sun for several days.

Sao anh không về thăm quê em,

(Why don’t you come back to visit my homeland,)

Ngắm em chằm nón buổi đầu tiên.

(To watch me sew hats for the first time.)

Bàn tay xây lá, tay xuyên nón,

(My one hand spreading leaves, the other piercing the threads through the hat,)

Mười sáu vành, mười sáu trăng lên.

(Sixteen splinters for the frame, under the moon of the sixteenth night of the month.)

Kinds of hats

In the North there are: nón quai thao (quai thao hat), nón ba tầm (ba tầm hat), nón chóp (top hat), nón thúng (pannier hat), nón gù (bump hat), nón sơn (painted hat; the palm leaves are painted to fight against rain), nón dứa (pineapple-leafed hat; made of thin pineapple leaves, with white silk strap), nón nhị thôn (two-village hat; with flat top, low sides, and a round frame in the middle to hold the head), nón vỏ bứa (garcinia bark hat; looking like a garcicia fruit cut in half), nón lông (feather hat; usually worn by the mandarins, made of two layers of bird feathers, with a top in silver or in turtle shelf), nón tu-lờ (for monks), and nón dấu (for soldiers). Among these, nón quai thao and nón ba tầm have ben frequently mentioned in poems.

Ai làm chiếc nón quai thao?

(Who made the quai thao hat?)

Đề anh thương nhớ ra vào không nguôi.

(That made me incessantly remember and long for.)

Khuôn hoa e lệ trong khuôn nón,

(Your pretty face so shy under your hat,)

Say mắt chàng trai liếc gởi tình.

(Has made the boy give a glance of passion.

(Chiếc nón quai thao by Anh Thơ)



Cái nón ba tầm (Ba tầm hat)

Quai thao một nắm, áo trầm một đôi,

(Quai thao in a fist, sandalwood-fragranced robe in double,)

Cái thắt lưng em bảy tám vuông sồi …

(The belt you wear measuring seven or eight square)

Khăn nhỏ, đuôi gà cao, em đeo dải yếm đào,

(With a small turban, your hair dressed up high like the cock tail, you wear a red brassiere,)

Quần lĩnh áo the mới, tay cầm nón quai thao,

(With satin trousers and chiffon robe, you hold a quai thao hat,)

(Poem by Nguyễn Nhược Pháp)

In Bình Định province, Central Vietnam, there are: nón ngựa (horse hat) or nón gò găng (gò găng hat) made of pineapple leaves to worn while riding a horse on wedding day:

Cưới nàng đội nón gò găng

(Marrying you I wear a gò găng hat)

Xấp lãnh An Thái, một khăn trầu nguồn.

(I offer you a stack of An Thái satin, and a tray of Nguồn betel.)

The province of Thừa Thiên is culturally famous with the poem conic hat of Huế from the village of Tây Hồ (West Lake). The famous traditional profession of hat sewing still exists in a number of villages such as Đồng Di (Phú Vang district), Dạ Lệ (Hương Thủy district), and Phú Cam (Huế).

Poetic use of the conic hat

Generally speaking, the conic palm-leafed hat is used to protect the wearer against sunshine and rain but it is also a source of inspiration for romantic folk poetry.

Nón này che nắng che mưa,

(This hat protects us come rain or shine,)

Nón này để đội cho vừa đôi ta.

(This hat is also worn to show that we are a matched couple.)

Nón này là nón u mê,

(This hat is the hat that causes passion,)

Nón này là nón đi về chung nhau.

(This hat is the hat for us to always be together.)

Chén tình là chén say sưa,

(This bowl of love is the bowl for drunkenness,)

Nón tình em đội nắng mưa trên đầu.

(This hat of love helps you cover your head come rain or shine.)

The usefulness of the hat is appreciated by poet Nguyễn Lãm Thắng as follows:

Mong manh chiếc nón ấy mà,

(How fragile is that hat,)

Che mưa che nắng đường xa mẹ về.

(It protects mother on her long way home come rain or shine.)

Từ phố thị đến làng quê,

(From city to countryside,)

Ở đâu nón cũng nghiêng che mái đầu.

(The inclined hat always protects our head.)

Nón che cái nằng qua cầu,

(The hat protects from sunshine when we cross the bridge,)

Chị đi đến lớp mặc dầu nắng oi.

(It helps sister to come to class despite the hot sunshine.)

Nón che từng hạt mưa rơi,

(The hat protects us from each and every drop of rainfall,)

Chiều đông cha vẫn ra nơi ruộng đồng.

(Even in winter afternoon, father still can go to the rice field.)

Giúp người nón mãi ước mong,

(The hat always hopes it can help people,)

Dẫu bao mưa nắng nón không ngại ngần.

(It never hesitates to help come rain or shine.)

The poem conic hat of Huế

The poem conic hat of Huế has been introduced into poetry, has become part of poets’ dreams, has attracted photographers, and has enhanced the Vietnamese girl’s purely innocent beauty. Being born in Tây Hồ (West Lake, Phú Hồ village, Phú Vang district) around 1959, the poem conic hat was sewn with dried and flat-ironed young white and transparent palm leaves, and with inserted pictures of the ferry, of Hương River landing, of the Celestial Lady Pagoda, and of popular poems. It was an invention of Mr. Dương Đức Bặt (or Bùi Quang Bặc) from West Lake village to insert the poems between the two layers of leaves, such as the following first sentences:

Ai ra xứ Huế mộng mơ,

(Whoever comes to visit dreamy Huế,)

Mua về chiếc nón bài thơ làm quà.

(Please buy the poem conic hat to offer as a gift.)

Sông Hương hoa rượu ta đến uống,

(We come to drink the flower alcohol by the Hương River,)

Ta tỉnh đền đài ngả nghiêng say.

(We are still sober while the palaces and monuments are drunk and fallen.)

(Poem by Nguyễn Trọng Tạo)

Since its appearance, the poem conic hat of Huế has created a treasure of literature.

Gió cầu vương áo nàng Tôn nữ,

(The wind flowing across the bridge is caught in the robe of the girl from the royal family,)

Quai lỏng nghiêng vành chiếc nón thơ?

(Who is wearing the inclined poem conic hat with the loose strap?)

Bài thơ nho nhỏ in màu trắng,

(The short and cute poem printed in white,)

Dọi xuống hồn ai những khoảng xanh.

(Projected down someone’s soul so many blue spots.)

(Poem by Nguyễn Khoa Điềm)

Nón bài thơ e lệ trong tay,

(You shyly hold in your hand the poem conic hat,)

Thầm bước lặng những khi trời dịu nắng.

(You take soft and silent steps under the mild sunshine.)

(Poem by Bích Lan)



Tà áo dài đôi lúc có thể xa,

(Sometimes you can leave the áo dài,)

Chứ chiếc nón cách gì em rời bỏ.

(But you will never leave the hat.)

Chỉ tiếc những ngày cùng chung nhiệm sở,

(I feel sorry that when we were working together,)

Biển giục anh, anh chẳng dám tỏ tình.

(The sea presses me, but I dared not declare my love to you.)

Câu thơ tình thành thử vẫn còn nguyên,

(The love poem I wrote for you was still here,)

Trong trái tim thầy giáo người Nam Việt.

(In the heart of the teacher from South Vietnam.)

Phút tiễn biệt đã thành bài thơ nhỏ,

(Here now at the time of departure it has become a small poem,)

Anh muốn đề, biết chiếc nón chịu không?

(I want to dedicate it, but I don’t know if the hat agrees?)

(Poem by Nguyễn Thái Dương)

How wonderful it is! The hat firmly covering the slender áo dài has created an attractive image of the royal court culture over this beautiful green mountainous and blue watery area.

Thương sao chiếc nón bài thơ,

(How lovely is the poem conic hat?)

Nhớ sao tà áo thẫn thờ gió bay.

(How much do I miss the robe carelessly flying in the winds?)

The beauty of the old legend “chim sa, cá lặn = bird falling, fish sinking” is compared with the poetic beauty of the gracious poem conic hat.

Tôi có người em sông Hương núi Ngự,

(I have a little sister from the region of Hương River and Ngự Mountain,)

Có lũy tre thôn Vỹ hiền từ,

(With the bamboo hedge of the gentle Vỹ village,)

Của kinh thành cổ xưa thật xưa

(Of the old, very old imperial capital city.)

Buổi trưa em che nón lá

(She covers her head with the palm-leafed hat in the afternoon,)

Cá sông Hương liếc nhìn ngẩn ngơ,

(The fish of Hương River has a glance and becomes amazed,)

Lũ chim quyên ngây ngất từ xa.

(The water-rails watching from a far and go into ecstasy.)

The hat strap

Even the hat strap made of white or purle silk has also added in the poeticization of the hat, such as in the following poem “Chiếc nón bài thơ chưa có bài thơ = The poem conic hat that does not have a poem yet.”

Vành vạch vầng trăng chiếc nón ngửa em cầm,

(The hat you are holding upside down under the full moon,)

Trên mặt là mịn màng hương tóc ấy,

(On the soft surface of the leaves I can feel the fragrance of your hair,)

Có ai để câu thơ nào chưa vậy?

(Has anyone dedicated a poem on it?)

Mà bên cầu em cứ đứng vân vê.

(Stand on the bridge, you look wondering.)

Giờ chia tay em vội vội vàng vàng,

(Comes the time to leave you seem in a rush,)

Như chàng trai trong ca dao anh chẳng chịu,

(Like the boy in the folk legend, I do not accept,)

Quai nón lụa thơm lừng anh khẻ níu,

(I still try to hold on the fragrant silk strap of you hat,)

Chớ ai đi níu vạt áo bao giờ.

(Not holding on the flap of your robe, something nobody should have ever done.)

Ôi chiếc nón bài thơ mà chưa có bài thơ,

(Oh! The poem conic hat that does not have a poem yet,)

Xui anh nhẩm trong lòng câu hát mãi.

(It leads me to recite silently in my heart the song I always sing.)

Vầng trăng kia chưa đến rằm có phải?

(Is it true that full moon has not reached the fifteenth night of the month?)

Nên em cầm vành nón cứ nghiêng nghiêng.

(Therefore, the hat you are holding has its edge inclined.)

O quai nón tím (The young girl with the purple hat strap)

O con gái tóc dài – quai nón tím,

(O, the young girl with long hair – and purple hat strap,)

Chiều ni về — O có nhớ ai không?

(Comig back this afternoon – do you remember anyone?)

Guốc khua chi – cho đây nhói cả lòng,

(Your wooden sandals beat the road – hurting my heart,)

Áo trắng quá – khiến hồn đây khờ khạo.

(Your robe is so white – that makes my mind wonder incredulously.)

Ngày hai buổi tan trường ngang mấy bận,

(Everyday, at the two ends of your class, many times,)

Đứng bên đường đây cứ mãi ngó mong,

(I stand across the street and long to see you,)

Quai nón tím ơi … khói thuốc thả vòng,

(Longing for the purple hat strap … I breathe out circles from my cigarette,)

Không dám gọi … dù chỉ lời thăm hỏi.

(I dare not call you … even just to say hello.)

O cứ đi qua … chẳng chờ … chẳng đợi

(You passed by … not seeking … not waiting)

Chẳng đoái hoài đến một gả khờ si.

(Not thinking of a poor stupid guy in love.)

Những ngã đường cũng năm bảy lối đi,

(All routes always have five or seven way to reach,)

Sao lòng đây chỉ … O quai nón tím?

(Why my heart is only for … the young girl with the purple hat strap?)

(Poem by Phan Thị Ngôn Ngữ)