The study of human body in Nguyen Duy’s poetry

1. Introduction Body is a key factor showing human existence. Each person has different ways of thinking because they are different in both physical and mental conditions. There are many scholars in different fields of study discussing human body, especially philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Merleau – Ponty, John O'Neill and Foucault. Most of them highly evaluated the role of body in the existence of people and society. A part of existential philosophy is human position which describes human existence and its abilities. Schopenhauer is regarded as one of the first philosophers who highly evaluated the body’s role in people’s survival. He claimed that the body was a bridge connecting human minds and the world, and people’s thoughts were actualized through their actions. In other words, our minds affected this universe through our bodies and actions. Thus, physical activities are very important. Nietzsche put the body in the center of philosophy with the idea that it’s necessary to consider the body as a standard to evaluate human senses. In his opinion, the world belongs to human senses and their creation because our senses had never cheated us. Therefore, the word and the body closely related to each other. This means that the world is the description and product of the body, determination and power. John O’neil in the book named Five forms of body also said that the body has five forms, which are the body in the universe, in the society, in the politics, in the consumer’s market and in medicine. On one hand, Foucault supposed that the body played an important role in social life as means of historical expression and operated place of power and speech. Thus, it is closely linked to sexuality, politics and life. In the Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty argued that all higher functions of consciousness, such as knowledge and determination, were derived from and dependent on the sensation of flesh and the reflection of subject. From this point of view, he asserted that the body was the common mean for people to lead the world. The nature of the body is a "space of expression".

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29 HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1067.2018-0046 Social Sciences, 2018, Volume 63, Issue 7, pp. 29-36 This paper is available online at THE STUDY OF HUMAN BODY IN NGUYEN DUY’S POETRY Chung Thi Thuy Hong Duc University, Thanh Hoa Abstract. Human body is the basement for people’s existence. All human consciousness seems to be resulted from their body. It is regarded as a subject that involved in all human activities and created thoughts as well as human values. Although through Nguyen Duy’s writing career, the poet didn’t intend to use body’s language as one of means of expression. However, the body marked a deep impression in his poetry showing the fundaments of his ideas and feelings of the subject. The language of the body in his poems tended to point out some important issues such as the origin of the body, the body in wars, and the body in poverty. Key words: Human body, Nguyen Duy’s poetry. 1. Introduction Body is a key factor showing human existence. Each person has different ways of thinking because they are different in both physical and mental conditions. There are many scholars in different fields of study discussing human body, especially philosophers such as Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Merleau – Ponty, John O'Neill and Foucault. Most of them highly evaluated the role of body in the existence of people and society. A part of existential philosophy is human position which describes human existence and its abilities. Schopenhauer is regarded as one of the first philosophers who highly evaluated the body’s role in people’s survival. He claimed that the body was a bridge connecting human minds and the world, and people’s thoughts were actualized through their actions. In other words, our minds affected this universe through our bodies and actions. Thus, physical activities are very important. Nietzsche put the body in the center of philosophy with the idea that it’s necessary to consider the body as a standard to evaluate human senses. In his opinion, the world belongs to human senses and their creation because our senses had never cheated us. Therefore, the word and the body closely related to each other. This means that the world is the description and product of the body, determination and power. John O’neil in the book named Five forms of body also said that the body has five forms, which are the body in the universe, in the society, in the politics, in the consumer’s market and in medicine. On one hand, Foucault supposed that the body played an important role in social life as means of historical expression and operated place of power and speech. Thus, it is closely linked to sexuality, politics and life. In the Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty argued that all higher functions of consciousness, such as knowledge and determination, were derived from and dependent on the sensation of flesh and the reflection of subject. From this point of view, he asserted that the body was the common mean for people to lead the world. The nature of the body is a "space of expression". Received January 10, 2018. Accepted July 21, 2018. Contact Chung Thi Thuy, e-mail address: chungthuy362@gmail.com Chung Thi Thuy 30 From the view of existentialism and phenomenology, it’s impossible for all human separate their brain from their flesh in doing activities. Human is paid much attention by literature including poetry. Thus, many kinds of human activities and expression are interesting subjects of literary works. Growing up in the war against the American Empire, Nguyen Duy started writing poems quite early. The unhappiness of his private life and the witness of many great national historical events implies many emotions, thinking and the reflection of human life, the meaning of human existence and social position in his poetry. Nguyen Duy's composition has caught much interest from critics and researchers, so the some aspects of human body in his works has been investigated. The most outstanding is the poem named: “The sense of humor in Nguyen Duy’s poetry” in which human body was shown in a joking and sensitive way when it faced the changes and impression of the body. The poet wrote as it is the feeling started at young ages: “One day, I saw my friend shy/ Covering the growing breast/ I was infatuated to see pink cheeks”, so “Feeling itchy in the soul” cited in the poem White dress and pink cheeks. After that, the teaser in Nguyen Duy’s poems became various: “Don’t skimp the young body/ Remember to share beauty with me” (Strokes and shapes). Even the images of female in modern countries were reflected in Nguyen Duy’s poems: “I change myself into the warm sun/ Cover the trembling skin welcoming the sun” (A little Northern Europe) [4]. In the writing: “Nguyen Duy- the poet of ordinary people”, Chu Van Son wrote that the bodies of “various human lives in the present” which are disable, hard-working and miserable. These bodies are ugly, but Nguyen Duy discovered their hidden beauty. They’re the old Cham hunch backed, the old man hit crying on the platform, the woman was found out lying under the bridge, the prostitute welcoming the new year’s Eve under the tree, the street child with disable legs under the roof hearing fireworks, the man with wooden crutches sitting by the river missing the homeland: “the lives at the beginning of the streets and those at the end of markets/ Where to go when the new year comes”. They are all like “pebbles and mud under the water”, “storks wandering by the seashores”, “bored with tiring streets”, the whole life is attached to “footsteps” - “The footsteps of Giao Chi residents”. However, they carry not only the suffering of ordinary people but also their beauty [6]. In Characteristics of Nguyen Duy's poetry of Nguyen Lam Dien, the human body in Nguyen Duy’s poems is mentioned in many aspects praising the beauty of Vietnamese people in daily activities such as painting walls, sweeping streets, sewing clothes, and moving stones. The beauty is mainly shown throughout the image of hands. In the writing: “The country life in Nguyen Duy’s alexandrine”, the body of Vietnamese people is mentioned through the image of poor farmers working hard all year around, but this doesn’t cause pessimistic feelings or boredom. On the other hand, it can be seen behind the hard work is “the fervent vitality, the benevolent soul and the beautiful nature of the poor people” [8]. Duong Ky Anh in “Nguyen Duy poet: “The time gone, the fields faded””, the body in this work is expressed through real people’s lives and the source of Nguyen Duy poetry. They are grandparents, mothers and wives. The obsession about the grandmother is linked to the scene of walking 14 kilometers to sell green tea on naked feet. They may be lack of the knowledge of letters, but they are good at remembering many folks and fairy tales as well as jokes. The image of the mother is supposed to derive from that treasure of folklores "dyed black teeth, skirt, usually lying on the hammock singing lullabies for me". Although the issue of body in Nguyen Duy’s poems has been mentioned in many works, none of them brings a systematical study. Thus, with this article, we would like to bring a new perspective, selective inheritance of previous researches to contribute a different interpretation in a broader view on Nguyen Duy’s poetry career. The study of human body in Nguyen Duy’s poetry 31 2. Content In Nguyen Duy’s poems, the body has left a deep impression on readers because this is realistic, not romantic. He brings the reflection of life with daily common worries from all kinds of people. The body of each human life is truly and meticulously portrayed in his poems including real lives, people’s fates and scenes as painted on the pages. In each situation of different lives, Nguyen Duy portrayed a different body that left the unforgettable obsession and thought in the heart of readers. 2.1. The origin of the body Every human was born with different bodies by different ancestors in a certain cultural environment. It’s a truth which is so obvious that most of us pay little attention. However, for Nguyen Duy, this is the greatest thing which impressed his mind, so he devoted all his life to research it. He wanted to “show himself and his own origin as well as the source of his poetry” [6]. In Nguyen Duy's poems, each body of human life carries the image of himself. Furthermore, the ego of the poet was also represented throughout many other bodies in his life. It can be said that the source of flesh in Nguyen Duy poetry is originally shown as the source of nature and the homeland’s cultural atmosphere. The nature with its climate, environment, and stratigraphy, has imprinted on the body of every person. Sometimes, the person uses his or her body to feel the nature and their land on their own way. For him, the homeland is the root with all simple and familiar things, which left traces on each person’s body. In the poem named The childhood, he said: “people in mountainous areas carried the trace of springs and trees while those in coastal areas carried the trace of some waves and wind; city residents carried the trace of streets while those in the countryside carried the trace of fields and gardens”. This means that people born in different living environments own distinctive bodies, that are full of features in these areas. Continuously leaves traces on human bodies’ time. Day by day, the bodies grows up and changes, but for Nguyen Duy – the poet, they are always full of traces of nature and their homeland’s culture, which are kept during their lifetime. Sometimes, people misunderstand that their childhood was over and could never be brought back, but the body has been always surviving regardless of the time gone, carrying the trace of the homeland which we are unable to deny or change: “The tracewas engraved in the bones/ the childhood can’t be exchanged/ we think about our origin all life/ there is a homeland in our footsteps and voice”. The origin potentially hid each person's body in any place at any time even when the body gets older or weaker. The poet said: “Any childhood will appear/ Although we get older”. This means that despite human ages, the childhood can be back. The poem namely The Len ferry is a good example for this simple discovery. The poem is a memory of emotional childhood, all events are like something happened yesterday. In a natural way, the poet tells the readers about naughty games of his childhood’s home such as: going to the village’s entrance for fishing, following the grandmother to the local market, catching birds in Buddha’s ears, and stealing fruits in Tran pagoda. Nguyen Duy named drains, markets, pagodas in a natural way with many memories. Without being closed to his homeland’s natural and cultural environment, how could he tell in such emotional way? The childhood’s memories of the romantic subject continue to run in the flow of emotions according to his recollections: “In my childhood I visited Cay Thi Temple/ Going on barefoot to see Song Temple Festival at night/ the flavor of white tuberoses mixed with incense smoke was really fragrant/ melodies accompanied the groggy shadow of fortune tellers” cited in The Len Ferry. The human tries to take advantage of senses to feel both the natural and cultural environment of his hometown. It is the feeling of the feet touching the homeland which is too rough that it leaves traces on his body. That memory has followed him throughout his life. Long time has gone, however, many memories in the romantic subject’s mind about all things Chung Thi Thuy 32 were felt by his tongue and eyes such as: “white tuberoses mixed with incense smoke” and “melodies accompanied the groggy shadow of fortune tellers”. Nguyen Duy seems to live in the space of his native culture with all his senses that capture and preserve such miraculous things. The river of his hometown has brought many unforgettable memories deep in the poet’s mind, which were felt by touching. He said: “Aged 10 I swam in the water flowing/ Sunbathing on this side and bathing on the other side”. Having grown up, he remained the feeling of swimming and bathing in the river. Perhaps with an innocent and carefree character, the romantic subject "I" has not yet felt the spirituality that the homeland’s nature offers, so he lived with customs and original instincts. But that memory is always fresh when “I” grow and realize that it is the source of the body, the "trace of fields and gardens" that has followed the poet year by year. For Nguyen Duy, the hometown leaves traces on the body from the first touch of the flesh on the land, the exposure to the river and the sunshine of the shore. Although away from home for years, "I" still remember the source of my birth: "From that river/ I left/ drops from the source of the sea/ the wind from Ma River cools all my life” cited in The Mother River. The poet does not only regard the river as the origin of the body of the subject “I” but he is also willing to be a drop of that river could join into the large ocean. In addition to the traces of the river, there are some traces of a straight paddy field with all kinds of creatures offered by the nature: “In my childhood the field was boundless/ With grass, rice and wild plants/ With white snail shells and dry furrows/ With muddy rice field with crab footprints/ My childhood was purely white with stork wings/ blackbirds with yellow beaks and hummingbirds with red tails/ The halcyon shot blue arrows/ The magpie-robin wakened the morning” quoted in The childhood. Regardless of moving to any places, the subject always remembers his own original hometown with its rustic features: “I miss myself/ a dusty homeland”. It can be seen that the homeland’s nature and culture are the original sources of the appearance of body leaving traces on all human daily activities in Nguyen Duy’s poetry. Beside the source of nature is the source of flesh - the source of all human bodies. If the origin of the hometown’s natural and cultural atmosphere brings a common cultural identity to the body, the origin of the blood and the flesh as the first source of physical existence forms the soul of Nguyen Duy’s poems. The mother’s milk and lullabies are sweet streams nurturing the body and inspiring the soul of his poetry: “The mother sang ethics in life/ her milk raised the flesh, but her lullabies inspired the soul/ the grandmother sang lullabies to her and she sang them to me/ If children would memorize it”. The mother did not only create the body of children but also sacrifice all her life to their growth with health and great ideals. The child missed the dead mother in the sacred and dreamful space and the scent of tuberose flowers. In that space, the mother seemed to continue with the worries of daily life. In another case, in the child's mind, the image of mother with anxiety and hard work always exists in this world: “Feeling sad with the scent of tuberose at night/ The incense smoke leads the way to the nirvana/incense ashes are hidden behind incense sticks/the mother is still on Earth”. The image of mother appeared with hard- working personality and simple lifestyles in the child’s boundless love: “My mother doesn’t have pink blouses/ Wearing conical hats instead of the Quai Thao/ Confused with much work/ Mud- dyed dresses and brown shirts during four seasons” quoted in the poem named Sad to miss the past mother. The poor and miserable mother in the girlhood didn’t have pink blouses or the Quai Thao hat. She wore conical hats and mud-died clothes. The more the child away from the homeland, the more past was recalled the missing of his dead mother with her great sacrifice and boundless love for children. The mother's nourishment is shown in every gesture: “Looking back to the homeland/ my soul- lied my mother on wet land on a rainy night/ Sad to miss the past mother/ with the mouth chewing rice and removing fish bone”. Although the mother passed away, the child still kept deep memories of her in his mind. The mother’s boundless love and her lullabies have brought moral philosophy that we are unable to understand: “All our life has passed, The study of human body in Nguyen Duy’s poetry 33 but we haven’t understood all mother’s lullabies”. The origin of the flesh in Nguyen Duy’s poetry is not only linked to the image of the mother but also the image of grandmother who left an unforgettable impression on the subject’s mind. He said: “I don’t know how hard my grandma’s life is/ she caught crabs and small shrimps in Quan paddy field/ she carried green tea in Ba Trai/ In the porridge stall walked she at cold nights!” (The Len Ferry). On the first lines, the character “I” told readers about naughty games in his childhood to put more highlight on the difficult life, which the grandmother suffered without any complaints to bring him up. “I” grew up in his grandma’s generous love and silence, so when becoming mature, his soul was full of sorrows while recalling the past. It is the reason why the boundary between grandmother and the God has been faded in the character’s mind: “I’m staying between the imagination and the reality/ between my grandmother and the God/ The time in hunger with undercooked arrow-roots/ Still felt the scent of white tuberose mixed with incense smoke”. The simple way of expressing the carefulness through the image “undercooked arrow-roots” becomes so sacred and sweet. Especially, the image of the grandmother has become everlasting in his soul when: “American bombs damaged my grandma’s house/ Song Temple and all other pagodas/ Where left the Gods and the Saints for/ the grandma sold eggs in Len gas station”. Not only the bombs caused the damage on houses but the gods and saints also left. However, the grandmother was still there to struggle against it. The last image of the grandmother “soldeggs in Len gas station” was such a deep impression in the subject’s mind. His sorrow was doubled when he came back home then saw his grandmother’s gravestone cover under the grass. He shouted: “After a long time in the army came I back home/ the river still differs on both sides/ Too late is it for me to show my love to the grandma/ Now lied her flesh under the grass”. The body of the grandmother and the mother as the source of the flesh gave the subject “I” the body and working hard to get nurture the flesh” with worries. However, now they go to the nirvana and their body is simply under the grave. In other words, when the flesh of beloved people can’t exist, it’s impossible for them to continue their life’s meaning, which can be shown through the existence of children and younger generations who remember their origin of their body and life. It seems to show the gratitude to the ancestors and the homeland as the origin of birth, Nguyen Duy was willing to be an ordinary and miserable individual: “Regardless of looking untidy/ looking forwards to some lines of poem/ In the crowds determined I that I would be nothing”, “To be the wine for the public to enjoy/ And for myself to be drunk” (The poem of subsidy period). The source of human body in Nguyen Duy’s poetry shows a deep gratitude as well as great love to the nature and the homeland with ordinary people who created the body of the subject “I”. The obsession about the origin of the body in Nguyen Duy’s poetry is also shown through the awareness of the role and responsibility of human existence in the society or community. Therefore, it creates “personal identity” and