Poems of Meng Jiao
Thinking of Someone
The Jiegao beacons have burned into daylight.
My exile's road, endless. It's hard to go on.
Border guards' swords are all covered in frost.
Waves rise on cold river. Snow drifts everywhere.
Right now, I'd just fly off to the Western Paradise,
But I can't send a southern heart that kind of sorrow.
In Tang times, Sichuan was the great western province, not the southwestern one it is now. Meng Jiao is freezing his honey buns off, out on the Tibetan border. Jiegao is probably some tall, bare "Wellsweep Hill" where there is a war beacon platform. If it's burning all night and into day, there's a war on. But this is the Tang. So, of course, there's a war on. The "Western Paradise" comes from 西去 or "go West" which is the ending of more than one idiom, like "ride a crane to the Western Paradise", that alludes to the far side of death or immortality. His first wife must be somewhere behind him in the south(east), so he's young here. (Or she's gone, he's older, and he has a girlfriend.) And now we know how far you had to go for educated work if you didn't take the common road through the imperial exams.