Poems of Meng Jiao
A Distressing Business
Many are poisoned as the quest for long life spreads.
One branch of this calamity has long flourished.
Who could know that a guest of the Yellow Chamber
Would fail to acquire an immortal spirit?
His cheerful countenance lost its fragrant beauty.
Autumn winds coiled about his withered limbs.
He couid no longer play a tune upon his lute
As he began to realize the onset of his destruction.
The moon above this inn shines with a new light, as a
Mournful guest writes out his final feelings.
Returning boats, empty upon the river, let the
Waves deliver the banners of the deceased.
I believe Meng Jiao has lost a friend to the quest for immortality. The Yellow Chamber is a very old Daoist scripture of alchemy. And this primitive alchemy was based upon those ingredients which visibly changed when heated: sulfur, lead, mercury. Tasty and expeditious, like Lake Woebegone biscuits. Bai Juyi once, according to his poem, did a little immortal cookery once. But he chickened out when it came time to eat the results. Good for him. More than one Tang emperor died as a result of eating this concoction of poisons. And crazy Daoists, out in the woods, died with no one to mourn them. At least this one crazy Daoist had a mourner who by art, and not science, achieved immortality.