Border Songs III

By Lu Lun (Tang Dynasty)

In the dim moonlight wild geese flew high in the sky,

In the dark fled the tartar chieftain.

The general was about to lead a light cavalry to chase,

Then came heavy snow clad in bows and glaives.


About the poem:

The Border Songs are mostly about wars over the border. This is the third one of Lu Lun’s six Border Songs. Lu used to be the assistant to a general, and had experienced the military life. Thus his description is rich and close to the substantial life. This poem is about the actions of a general chasing the enemy with his cavalrymen in a snowy night.

The first two lines are about the fleeing of the enemy. In the night, the moon is covered by the clouds and it is dark. The wild geese are frightened out of their sleep and fly high in the sky. On this unusual night, the enemies flee away. In the Tang Dynasty, the tartar chieftains often led their people to invade.

The last two lines are about the chasing of the general. He tracks down his enemy as they attempt to escape, and chases them with his cavalry. Just as they are leaving, a heavy snow starts and immediately the bows and glaives of the soldiers are covered by the snowflakes. This highlights the tough war conditions and the courage and energy of the warriors.

The intense atmosphere is totally expressed by the escape and the chasing. Though the chasing process and the fierce battle were not described directly, the poet fires our imaginations.