Poems of Xue Tao
Seeing Off Officer Yao
River willows trail ten thousand branches in the early cold,
Dancing coyly in the wind before their color fades away.
I was about to break one off as your parting gift.
Let's not let the cloud-hung moon make us homesick.
Dictionaries helpfully explain that 员外 is a traditional name for an official. Be nice if they could be more explicit. But they're not; so it's Officer Yao. It was also traditional to break off a willow branch as a parting gift. This was a play of the word "willow" (柳 liu3) on the word "stay" as in "please, stay - don't go" (留 liu2). The last line is more directly, "Don't let the smoky moon make the two of us homesick." So it may be that Yao and Xue Tao came from the same somewhere. That would be the place from which Xue Tao's mother did not come when her father died.