Grass on the Ancient Plain in Farewell to a’ Friend by Bai Juyi 草 (白居易)

Grass on the plain spreads higher and higher;

Year after year it fades and grows.

It can’t be burned up by wild fire,

But revives when the spring wind blows.

Its fragrance o’erruns the old way;

Its green invades the ruined town.

To see my friend go far away,

O’erladen with grief, it bends down.









This poem expresses the poet’s sad feelings at parting by way of chanting the grass. The poem describes the great vitality of the grass which withers but rises again and spreads all over to portray its fragrance, green life and exuberant growth. This description symbolizes the deep and long-lasting friendship between the poet and his friends. The poem has been famous through the ages for the couplet “It can’t be burned by wild fire, But revives when the spring wind blows,” which reveals a profound truth with a vivid metaphor. It conveys to us the idea that new things full of vitality will not be wiped out, nor will they be destroyed by temporary reverses; they are bound to grow up bit by bit tenaciously till they are flourishing and present a splendid sight.

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