Poems of Meng Jiao
Distant Long River flows without end.
Time doesn't change it. Makes me want to sigh.
September wind and a hoarfrost soaks my clothes.
All the dreams I once had wither, fall, and fade.
I left home at sixteen and told no one goodbye.
Plains had no shelter. My road had no choice.
On field paths, I heard the message of the bitterest cold.
It made me stop and stand there, startled and sad.
Today, people smugly spurn millet for meat.
Who wants to hear about my old hard times again?
Ocean winds howling and skies raining sleet.
Isolated. Sad. Sitting alone through long nights.
This road I'm on now reminds me of old risks I took
And of how I learned how wanderers miss home.
Beauties in the palace, with their lovers far away,
Can gaze beyond the clouds but can't leave home.
This white stone in my hand, I want to send to you.
To love and be away, it breaks my heart.
Southern mountains are majestic. But what I came for spoiled.
It's the vast waves on the blue ocean that are carefree.
Morning stars haunt me. But I can't stay. I'd fly back
Across these heavens. But no one gave me wings.
I think Meng Jiao wrote this in his twenties while he was away, working and separated from his first wife. It tells us that he did some years of wandering before he met her. He reminds me of the debt-collector in 四大名捕 who left home early, before he knew the value of home. This is a frustrating poem. There is so much nuance that each line wants to be a small paragraph. Which makes for poor poetry in translation. For example, the "what I came for" that is spoiled is White Stones (白石), the food of Daoist immortals. The rock he wants to give her is a white pearl-like semi-precious stone. So in those two lines one white rock echoes another. The "no one gave me wings" is actually "writing brush without wings" (无羽横). "Morning star" (参辰) is more like "the twenty-first constellation lingering into the hour of the Dragon (7-9 a.m.)." I've done the best I can.