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Standing on the Stirrup - By: Zhen He

I feel like a dream,

Sometimes propelled high into the air like a swift and steady cloud,

Riding on the wind like a brave cavalryman carried forward by the trot of his robust and fearless steed,

Until the steed is shot. And I, too, shot up into the air by a sudden jolt,

collapses onto the ground.

But the waves of the sea carry me,

Rocking me in its arms,

Swaying my corpse back to shore once more.

Then a new horse will come and greet me,

and I shall mount on him to battle again.

This one, a greater coward than the last,

Shudders in fear before the crack of the musket volley -

Brings me fleeing back to whence I came.

No more glory,

The dead belong to the dead.

Please give a detailed explanation about the meaning and main idea of this poem.

Its meaning revolves around the feeling of being overwhelmed, where in spite of a continuous effort to deal with all the issues at hand there simply is not enough time or resources for you to complete everything satisfactorily. Especially so when you have already failed at something (the horse is shot and the rider falls), but the overbearing demand is that you immediately get back onto your feet (the waves carrying the corpse back ashore) and try again even when you know that you won't succeed. In the end, you are forced to step back and run away (the second horse flees).

Please explain your writing and thought process regarding this poem.

Part of it is already mentioned, but I wanted to represent a common feeling in a more expressive manner. I was also feeling particularly inspired because I had just watched a documentary on the Napoleonic wars and wanted to weave some of that in. The cavalry charging into musketeers comes from that.

Why did you choose to write this poem?

I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed myself and wanted to write something to let it out.

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