A Song for the Travelling Son (游子吟) was composed by Meng Jiao (孟郊) to express his gratitude for his mother. The poem is relatively simple and easy to understand. It was written when the 50-year-old poet was appointed as a county official in Liyang, Jiangsu Province. He then brought his mother to live in the county.
The poem presents people how mighty the love of a mother is and at the same time expresses his gratitude to mother’s sincere love. He longed to repay his mother’s kindness. He recognized the impossibility of doing so, for how can the inch tender grass be able to repay the bright sunlight to full three months of Spring?
This poem has been passed down from one generation to another and almost every Chinese knows this poem. Especially the last two verses are now a common metaphor of motherly love.
游子吟 A Song of A Travelling Son
慈 母 手 中 线，
cí mǔ shǒu zhōng xiàn,
A thread in a mother's loving hand,
游 子 身 上 衣。
yóu zǐ shēn shàng yī。
Makes up the clothes for her travelling son.
临 行 密 密 缝，
lín xíng mì mì féng,
Knitting all her affection into every stitch,
意 恐 迟 迟 归。
yì kǒng chí chí guī。
She is worrying he would be away for too long.
谁 言 寸 草 心，
shuí yán cùn cǎo xīn,
Who says the heart of the inch grass,
报 得 三 春 晖。
bào dé sān chūn huī。
Could be able to repay the sunlight of full Spring.