Ode to the Geese by Luo Binwang 咏鹅 (骆宾王)

O geese, O geese, O geese’

You crane your neck and sing to the sky your song sweet.

Your white feathers fioat on green water with ease;

You swim through clear waves with your red-webbed feet.

鹅、鹅、鹅,

曲项向天歌。

白毛浮绿水,

红掌拨清波。

This lively poem is easy to understand. The goose is pictured d from its cry, the postures of bending its neck towards the sky and its swimming in the water. This offers us a vivid description. It is the bright-colored words like white feather, green water, red feet and clear wave that serve as foils to one another, making the whole poem a light and beautiful picture roll. The poem truthfully reflects a child’s fondness for the white goose and therefore has become a text of the elementary course for  children to learn ancient poetry. It has been recited generation after generation and known to all.

Luo Binwang (about 638-684) was a famous poet of the Tang Dynasty, who 一enjoyed equal fame with Wang Bo, Yang Jiong and Lu Zhaolin.  He was able to compose poems when he was very young, and was called a “child prodigy”. It is said that “Ode to the Geese” selected in this book was composed when he was seven. His father died young, so he passed his early life in poverty. He was once an official but was demoted later. Then he had to enlist in the army and was stationed in the border areas for a long time. He became an ofticial at court in 678. Having submitted many memorials commenting on the court administration, he offended Empress Wu Zetian and was framed again and put into prison. He felt greatly depressed after he was released, so he gave up his office eventually. In 684, Xu Jingye (or Li Jingye) called out the troops to revolt against Wu Zetian and Luo took part in the rebellion. He wrote the eminent Sending Out War Proclamation to the Country in the Name of Li Jingye, in which he enumerated the crimes of Wu Zetian with such sharp but elegant language that even Wu Zetian herself was overwhelmed with admiration while reading it. The whereabouts of Luo Binwang was unknown as he fled after Xu Jingye was defeated.

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