Nguyen Ai Quoc (Ho Chi Minh)

The name Ho Chi Minh is one of the most recognizable names associated with the war in Vietnam. Born Nguyen Tat Thanh in 1890, he is sometimes known as Nguyen Ai Quoc (Nguyen the Patriot) or more commonly as Ho Chi Minh (Ho the Enlightened). Ho’s life is marked with mystery. He wrote frequently, including poetry, and turned to verse as a way to convey his thinking.

Ho Chi Minh composed a poem yearly for Tet, the lunar New Year. The poem below was written in 1948.

Full Moon in January

Now comes the first full moon of the year.
Rivers rise in mists to join spring skies.
We talk of strategy by slow burning fires.
Yes, sell the compass, come on the boat of the full moon.

              (Translated by Kevin Bowen)


Ho was imprisoned by the Chinese in 1941 and charged with being a spy for the French. During that time it was believed that he died in prison, and a funeral was held in his memory. The poem below was found soon after Ho’s memorial service by a friend. The poem was written on a newspaper. It was clear that the Ho was not dead.


The clouds are setting the peaks aglow
The peaks are hugging the clouds—
I wander alone, roused to feeling
Scanning the distant southern sky
I am thinking of my friends


The poem below was taken from Ho’s Prison Notebook in 1942.


Gentle Sun...a soft
breeze...a flower smiles
At the top of a tree...a
shining branch...
The hum of a chorus of
Men and beast feel the
change coming
What is more natural?
After unhappiness, here
comes joy.