Poems of Political Prisoners: Ho Chi Minh

Clear morning


The morning sun

shines over the prison wall,


And drives away the shadows

and miasma of hopelessness.


A life-giving breeze

blows across the earth.


A hundred imprisoned faces

smile once more.



Good days coming


Everything changes, the wheel

of the law turns without pause.


After the rain, good weather.


In the wink of an eye


The universe throws off

its muddy cloths.


For ten thousand miles

the landscape


Spreads out like

a beautiful brocade.


Gentle sunshine.

Light breezes. Smiling flowers,


Hang in the trees, amongst the

sparkling leaves,


All the birds sing at once.


Men and animals rise up reborn.


What could be more natural?


After sorrow comes happiness.



Ho Chi Minh is a poet and far more than a poet. He even writes that poems must wait until better times; there were so many other things to do. Not least the liberation of his land, Viet Nam. His life is a long life of intelligence and care, of pain and gratefulness, of conflict and regret.

He writes these poems while imprisoned and they are part of his ‘Prison Diary’. After release, Ho Chi Minh leads the independence movement, establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945. The so-called French Union is defeated in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu.

He leads his people until his death in 1969. Six years later, the conflict – now with the United States of America (USA) as the external power – ends with the unification of the people. It is a war that has been costly for their lives and for their land. Not only a conflict with an external power but also, as so often in our history, a civil war. It takes years and years to heal the wounds of a people, of their fields, their forests and their minds.


The Prison Diary of Ho Chi Minh. Translation: Aileen Palmer. Bantam Books, 1971.

Ho Chi Minh, Poems from the Prison Diary. Translation: Steve Bradbury. Tinfish Press, 2005.




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