This song illustrates the wife’s longing for her husband who has gone a long way and is yet to return. She desperately wants to hear the good news of her husband’s return. A magpie dropped by several times, only to bring disappointment. She locked the bird in a cage to take her frustration out on a poor magpie. She may forgive her husband’s indifference, yet she could not let the bird’s lie pass. The wife had no way to let out her disappointment other than to repeat her irrational stubbornness.
A proverb that a magpie brings the good news is not a myth but a belief she must hold on to. Frustration is a proof of hope and expectation, and it is also the wife’s ironclad conviction that her husband will come back. “If you want your husband to come back early, please let me free to the blue sky,” sings the magpie. The bird’s plea for liberty sounds like a message of hope. The woman may have wanted to comfort her desolate heart through this monologue.
This poet was found in one of the stone caves in Dunhuang, which shows an early version of the poetry that emerged after the mid-Tang dynasty. An honest and straight mood conveyed by the lyrics is a typical characteristic of a folk song. “A magpie steps on the branch” is the title of the song, and there is no separate subject for the poem.