By Guo Moruo
The cuckoo, the spirit of my native place Sichuan, is probably holding a higher place in Chinese literature than any other bird.
The mere mention of this bird will arouse in our hearts a great deal of poetic feeling.
To begin with, she is the incarnation of the legendary king of ancient Sichuan named Wang Di. She has come to be known sometimes as an ill-fated beauty and sometimes as a patriot concerned over the fate of the nation. Her call is full of longings for home; she loiters about the mountains crying and spitting up blood. She is pathetic, sad, pure and sincere … She is in the eyes of all a symbol of love, which seems to have become a national feeling.
And this feeling has gone beyond the national boundary to affect most of the eastern countries. In Japan, for example, the cuckoo is holding a position in literature by no means lower than in China.
Nevertheless, all that is a typical instance of undeserved reputation.
The cuckoo is a grayish-brown bird with none too beautiful feathers. She is characteristically domineering and cruel.
She doesn’t build her own nest, nor does she hatch or feed her young. During the breeding season, she deposits her eggs in the nests of orioles for them to hatch and rear. A baby cuckoo is bigger in size than a baby oriol, and, when full grown, bigger even than the mother oriol. After she is hatched, she often pushes the baby oriol out of the nest, leaving the poor chick to cry and die of hunger and cold so that she may have the mother oriol’s care all to herself. The mother bird, however, being treated unfairly without her knowledge, continues laboriously to feed the baby cuckoo who is bigger than herself. The tragic spectacle is such as to arouse great indignation and draw tears of sympathy!
Hence I believe that the cuckoo can best serve as a model of those who win popularity by dishonest means. But the cuckoo is not to blame. A cuckoo is a cuckoo. She has never asked people to call her a beauty or a patriot.
Man is no wiser than the oriol. Many act on their own personal imagination regardless of the reality of things.
Therefore, we do see, both in history and at present, numerous cuckoo-like men sponging off their compatriots. What about in the future? The oriol can’t give an answer, but man should and can.