Poems of Meng Jiao
The Fierce General
Your fabled delicacies must be cooked just right.
You store up anger, impatient for your fame.
Your autumn wardrums never seem to fade.
Your sword, even at night, is never sheathed.
You lead your tiger troops on pounding horseback.
The records of your exploits, you safely store away.
At all times, everyone is told when the
Fierce general emerges from the North.
Here we have Meng Jiao ingratiating himself with the military elite. Mais trés subtil, non? The first line has to do with delicate slices of pork from the fabled Silk Road oasis of Loulan. It gets less subtle from there. Which tells us he wrote this before he was forty-six and became an official. Officials who wrote like this ended up exiled to the malarial south, where they were given menial government work to do while their health was worn down to nothing. Wandering mendicant poets could write like this all they liked, so long as they didn't send it in as some kind of suicidal petition. But this is the kind of poem Meng Jiao's literary peers would appreciate and enjoy. Meng Jiao's cutting words were made to smile at. Truth makes good men smile in all times and places, especially when their times and places are troubled ones.