这首《短歌行》的主题非常明确，曹操的愿望是拥有大量可用的才干。 曹操在政治活动中强调“功臣主义”，以扩大他在普通地主之间的统治基础，并与反动的世袭和强大力量作斗争。 而且“短歌行”实际上是一种“求贤之歌”，并且由于运用了诗歌的形式，蕴含着丰富的抒情元素，因此可以发挥独特的感染作用，有效地宣传了他的坚持，与他发行法令。
A Short-Song Ballad
The wine, the song, life goes on —
But for how long?
It evaporates, to our dismay,
Like the morning dew, day after day.
Ambition and aspiration sustain me,
But a secret thread of grief worries me.
How can I brush it aside
But by drowning it in wine?
Scholars, scholars, where are you?
Years I have chanted the song of yearning —
But would you ever come over to me?
Deer are calling from the field, grazing
On the tender marsilea.
Let my house be graced with a learned visitor,
I will have music played in his honour.
But he is as bright as the moon,
And how could I make a moon stay?
Here my sorrows surface and swell,
And refuse to go away.
Talented friends, whom I love, I treasure,
For a rendezvous no journey is too long!
Would you mind coming, to our meeting,
To our feast, back to old-days' feeling?
The stars so dim, the moon so bright,
Southbound birds are flying, circling
Round and round over the tree —
On which bough are you alight?
The water can never be too deep,
And the mountain too high.
When an open-minded king calls for talent,
It is him the would must stand by.