Poems of Meng Jiao
Gazing the Distance
With every dawn, she trusts in his return.
And every day she climbs this high tower.
He was here when their plum trees were planted.
He left by the third time they saw them bloom.
How many times must she watch them bloom again?
Even the pleasantness of spring hinders their reunion.
Worries rise, her distant gaze is blocked by mists and smoke.
Vainly, she cherishes his black hair, now wind-beaten white.
How will she live to see her far-wanderer's return?
The final character 客 can indicate an exile and not just a traveler. Officials were exiled all the time in the Tang for displeasing the powerful. They were sent west or south, far away, to serve in minor posts. And if they died there, only the wife would mourn. Travel in the Tang was no joke. Mountains sat astride every road. Most of the land was wilderness. Du Fu, the poet, traveled four hundred miles one winter, across snow-covered mountains, on muddy or frozen roads, with his wife, his children, a pack horse and some pets. They made it. But it was no certain thing that any of them would make it to his next official position alive. Women died of old age or sorrow, gazing the distance, looking for their heart's return. This poem of Meng Jiao's is probably set to a popular tune, his lyrics matching the pattern of the song's. This is what he may be indicating in the title with 曲 which means "tune."