Poems of Meng Jiao
(Written for an old retiree)
Withdraw from the body and how will you eat?
A defeated strength cannot relax in idleness.
To plant rice, you plow clear water.
To gather firewood, you chop green hills.
The crowd hears its happy, hopeful singing.
You wake alone to your own face of sorrow.
Evening is a time of peaceful return,
A time to bow at the distant gate of pines.
I think Meng Jiao is in his thirties here. But by now, his humanity has matured beyond that of some older men. We know that he associated with poets wherever he went. He kept up a kind of social, cultured life. But he also knows what it is to plow a flooded field of rice, to gather firewood, to hear a village singing. I imagine that one of his friends, an older man, is moving toward a solitary ideal of retirement. And Meng Jiao is old enough to know that such an isolation is merely a preparation for death. He would rather his friend chose life.