Poems of Meng Jiao
A Traveler's Wife's Lament
My good husband left yesterday.
Next month, he still won't be back.
At parting, both of us cried,
Wretched, at the gates of our home.
His tears darkened my silk scarf.
My tears fell in the road's dust.
For long, his hand clung to my scarf.
Today, I wear it next to my skin.
The road's dust can follow the wind.
It can cling to the wheels of his cart.
Yuyang is a long road away. But for me,
It stands just out my gates.
Sometimes I step out these gates and
Yuyang is in front of my eyes.
It rises from this green silk scarf.
But I don't know the way to cross over.
My good husband still comes to protect me.
Every night, in my dreams, he arrives.
You could hardly write a simpler poem. Any hearer would understand it. It stands, then, for every traveler's wife. Like Bai Juyi, Meng Jiao's sense of humanity is expanding. The poem, due to certain conventions, shifts from her referring to him in third person, then to first person, then back to third. I have left it in third throughout because it seems sadder that way and linguistic conventions, in translation, can be meaninglessly distracting. In line 4, other translators may be sent astray by 青楼, which in a weak dictionary means "brothel." It's actual meaning is "abode of beauty" or "home" similar to English's "home is where the heart is." By extension from that it becomes "mansion," and only by normal innuendoed distortion "brothel." The fantasies of many translators require them to pick up their words by the lowest end. After a while, they seem to lose sight of the highest ends of Chinese words in general.