Poems of Meng Jiao
A Teasing Gift for Dr. Lu, in twelves lines
(Lyric poem of twelve lines written to tease Dr. Lu.)
Lotus leaves don't stand a chance
With flowers floating in midstream.
Not like the roadside willows who
Are free to dance in winds of spring.
Duckweed and lotus leaves
Share these river waters.
Breezes come, the lotus stay.
But duckweed always floats away.
Lotus leaves are not yet open.
They struggle all day, bitterly.
When spring freshets come, they'll open.
But it still won't be their blossoming day.
We can say several things about this poem without figuring very much out. The count of twelve lines is certainly important to Meng Jiao. He counts them twice and mentions, too, that this is a Lyric Poem. Perhaps it is another experiment in New Lyric poetry, which would make him older. Or it's an experiment with lyric poems he's making on his own, which makes him younger. We're not sure what he's teasing Dr. Lu about. But he mentions that twice too.
Floating duckweed is a symbol of wanderers and wastrels. And line three and four manage to have pairs of euphemisms. I'm not big on waving euphemisms around. But in this case, Meng Jiao may be slipping in that the Duckweed Doctor spends too much time with the working girls. But that's an aside because we go on into botanic symbolism and leave the girls behind.
Best guess here is that Dr. Lu criticised the possibilities of lyric poetry and perhaps the poetic abilities of Meng Jiao. Meng Jiao responds, in twelve lyric lines, that (a) the doctor is a sensualist, (b) he won't last as long as the lotus (presumably Meng Jiao), and (c) admits that he actually does have a ways to go -- Meng's leaves are almost out and the blossoms come even after that. This final bit shows a kind of honesty in Meng Jiao's opinion of himself, which will make the doctor feel better or worse, depending on how he takes it.
(Later: see poem 180)