Poems of Meng Jiao
A Family Disaster Walk
Ruined city. Ancient trees, full of withered branches.
Morning comes, birds wail, strive to feed their young.
Branches break. Nests fall. Chicks lie on the ground.
Birds of prey land to eat. Birds wail all the more.
Sun comes out, forces life. Life itself goes on.
Birds can surely feel it but don't know what to do.
Branches weak. Nests small. Disasters come in plenty.
Can't really raise their young before the next one comes.
Distant woods are full of precious trees with magic branches.
Phoenix nests in a pavillion there, deep within the shade.
But he won't do a helpful thing for these poor birds here.
So how can he be better than our local birds of prey?
The 覆巢 in the title refers to an idiom, "When disaster comes to the nest, no egg escapes." Or, "No one is untouched by bad times." The "walk" part (行) seems to me to be Meng Jiao composing poetry as he walks. Other interpretations of that character seem unnecessarily stilted. He walks and poetizes. Then he goes home to write it down. This poem was probably written before Meng Jiao became an official. Critical poems were often couched in this kind of metaphor. But the phoenix is always the symbol of the emperor. You don't criticize him so openly and keep your official post.