“Sao Tua chín cái (ối a) nằm kề– First verse of Bài ca sao, music and lyrics by Phạm Duy (1921 – 2013)
Thương em từ thuở mẹ về (là về) với cha
Sao Vua năm cái (ối a) nằm xa
Thương em từ thuở người ra (ối a) người vào
Sao Mơ sáu cái (ối a) nằm chầu
Sao Khuê mấy cái (ối a) nằm đâu…”
“Bài ca sao” is a love song by Phạm Duy, an iconic musician and composer whose body of work spanned decades. Inspired by a ca dao (folk poem), the song retains the genre’s lục bát (six-eight) verse form – alternating lines of six and eight syllables that rhyme on the sixth syllable.
Interwoven with references to constellations and meteors are declarations of love:
I have loved you since Mama joined Papa
I have loved you since people came and went
I have loved you since passion and tenderness grew
I have loved you since, her heart full, Mama was expecting you
I have loved you since Mama held you in her happy arms
I have loved you since you lent us your smile…
With its simple melody and fillers (ối a, là về), Bài ca sao is reminiscent of folk lullabies. Instead of romantic love, it can be interpreted as love for a child (or grandchild) being rocked to sleep.
… I have loved you since Mama wondered about the future
I have loved you since someone came from afar
I have loved you since you moved away to build a love of your own
I have loved you since a thousand miles separated us
The stars followed your steps and only the night sky looked back.