Poems of Hồ Xuân Hương : 𥙩𫯳終 - On Sharing a Husband

Title:𥙩𫯳終 - On Sharing a Husband
Screw the fate that makes you share a man.
One cuddles under cotton blankets; the other’s cold.
Every now and then, well, maybe or maybe not.
Once or twice a month, oh, it’s like nothing.
You try to stick to it like a fly on rice
But the rice is rotten. You slave like the maid,
But without pay. If I had known how it would go
I think I would have lived alone.
Notes:Hồ Xuân Hương, like her mother, was a vợ lẽ, a concubine, or wife of second rank. Traditionally, Vietnamese women wielded considerable economic and political power, but by 1800 the condition of women had deteriorated as the Vietnamese nation itself began a collapse under domestic and foreign pressures. Many women could choose only between struggling alone or becoming concubines, risking the indignities in this poem. Men, meanwhile, could have many wives. The king was permitted 126 wives in six different categories, while even a student scholar could have "five concubines, seven wives." See Hoa Bang, Hồ Xuân Hương, Nhà Thơ Cách Mạng (Saigon: Gon Phuong, 1950), p. 106. Chém cha ("screw") is a curse, meaning "cut father." Năm thì mười hoạ ("five out of ten times") is a folk expression.