A Poem for the Swallows (《燕詩》 /《燕詩示劉叟》) was written by the renowned poet Bai Juyi (白居易, 772-846AD) of the Tang Dynasty. It is a very popular poem in traditional Chinese culture as the poem allows one to reflect on the Confucian concept of filial piety (孝). According to a preamble of the poem, this work was composed by Bai Juyi for one sad elderly gentleman, Lau, whose son left him without a trace:
Translation(by KS Vincent POON潘君尚. Feb. 7, 2018)
Two swallows were upon a wooden beam,
a he and a she stood elegantly (翩翩) as a team.
Clays amassed by their beaks (銜泥) rested between two wooden pilings,
a nest that hatched four offspring.
The four offspring grew by the day and night,
demanding food endlessly as they chirp (孜孜) with all their might.
Fresh worms were not easy to catch as preys,
and the young mouths (黃口) seemed not to be satiated by any day.
Beaks and talons were about to be tattered (敝),
yet the minds and bodies knew no tired.
In an instant, making ten flights to and fro,
still fearing starvation in the nest might take hold.
Working hard for thirty days,
the mother became thin while the chicks gradually gained more weight.
Murmuring to teach them how to speak,
brushing every one of their feathery coats to keep them neat.
Once their wings had grown and could expand,
it was time to lead them to a straight tree branch;
the youngsters all spread their wings without looking back,
taking flight and dispersed with the wind leaving no tracks.
She and he cried out for the little ones in midair,
yet not even one return as their voices exhausted in despair;
the couple returned to the empty nest,
tweeting all night sad.
O dear swallows you both should not have been so sad,
you should have reflected upon yourselves instead:
the days when you were also little chick toddler,
you too once took flight and turned your back on your mother.