An Ode to the Goose
- Poetry of Luo Binwang

《咏鹅》

- Last updated: 2024-03-29 20:49:11

An Ode to the Goose by Luo Binwang
中文原文

鹅、鹅、鹅,曲项向天歌。

白毛浮绿水,红掌拨清波。

An Ode to the Goose


English Translation

Goose, goose, goose,

You bend your neck towards the sky and sing.

Your white feathers float on the emerald water,

Your red feet push the clear waves.

Written by Tang Dynasty poet Luo Binwang when he was only seven years old, “An Ode to the Goose” is a particularly simple and easy to memorize poem, resulting in it often being one of the very first famous Chinese poems to be learned by Chinese children.

Written when he was just 7 years old, this poem conveys a sense of the innocent, yet detailed observations of a child towards the immensity of nature. Later widely acknowledged as the one of four distinguished Tang poets, Luo reveals his brilliancy in poetry at a young age. Although he focuses on a seemingly insignificant part of nature (geese!), the poet reveals his deeper connection with nature through an activation of a plethora of senses.

Beginning with a simple word — 鹅 (geese) — repeated thrice, readers recognize the simple, carefree spirit of the poet and can expect a refreshing and lighthearted piece of work. The poet then proceeds to focus on the body parts of geese and connect them to an aspect of nature: 曲项 (curved necks), 白毛 (white feathers), and 红掌 (red webbed feet) are all simple, yet elegant two-worded descriptions of geese; all three body parts directly engage with nature, revealing the close connections between animals and nature. However, Luo does not simply correlate animals with nature — in reality, he also weaves a tightly-knitted relationship between beauty and nature. The vivid descriptions of the setting serves to portray the gentle serenity of the natural environment. In truth, the childlike observations of nature remind readers to sometimes stop and simply admire the beauty of their natural surroundings.

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Why Chinese poems is so special?
The most distinctive features of Chinese poetry are: concision- many poems are only four lines, and few are much longer than eight; ambiguity- number, tense and parts of speech are often undetermined, creating particularly rich interpretative possibilities; and structure- most poems follow quite strict formal patterns which have beauty in themselves as well as highlighting meaningful contrasts.
How to read a Chinese poem?
Like an English poem, but more so. Everything is there for a reason, so try to find that reason. Think about all the possible connotations, and be aware of the different possibilities of number and tense. Look for contrasts: within lines, between the lines of each couplet and between successive couplets. Above all, don't worry about what the poet meant- find your meaning.

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