Poems of Meng Jiao
A Frivolous Outing on Ba River
In Chang'an, a leisurely stroll was impossible.
And then, it was getting on towards evening.
We happened to meet there along the river.
And it's not as if we were related.
I sighed at my own clumsiness and then,
Suddenly, I was caught up in your playful spirit.
I'm usually afraid to lose myself like that,
Afraid my life will blow away like dust.
There I was, grey-haired, and actually
Scampering, not even stopping to rest.
Everything about this poem places it in Meng Jiao's early forties as he struggles to pass the imperial exams. And as a wild, unsubstantiable guess, I would say this is a poem about his meeting his second wife. The descriptions of Meng Jiao's poetry that you run across are kind of funny. Everyone echoes Han Yu's eulogy, as if Meng Jiao was simply one clichéd thing. Okay, he could use a biting wit and his words could pierce the heart. But his translators seem to miss the wit and the bite and simply pass across his surface. He seems pretty soft-hearted to me. A romantic, even. I said, after the first Meng Jiao verse I translated, that he seemed to be Bai Juyi's evil twin. I was wrong. He is more like Bai Juyi's elder brother who will stand up and fight when Bai Juyi is more likely to keep a low profile and say his piece in a way that won't (usually) get him exiled. But they are definitely brothers in spirit. Their sister, of course, is Yu Xuanji, who died young of illness. Had she lived a full life, she might have bumped someone off the "Greatest Tang Poets" list.