Poems of Meng Jiao
(Partly from resenting loneliness, partly to send to Han Yu)
Two days ago, we did the long goodbye.
Yesterday, I started feeling old.
Want to know what endless travel is like?
Get up tomorrow and don't go to bed for a month.
If it wasn't for the racket of these cicadas,
I'd lay down in these flowers and sleep.
I'm not sure what's going on here. I think that Han Yu and Meng Jiao were friends. Han Yu wrote Meng Jiao's epitaph. But Han Yu was several things: 17 years younger than Meng Jiao, esteemed as a writer and scholar in his own time, politically conservative, the historical root of Neo-Confucianism, and an opponent of Buddhism and Daoism. Meng Jiao, as far as I can tell, was more or less Han Yu's opposite. But the epitaph pretty much confirms their friendship.
This poem probably comes towards the end of Meng Jiao's wandering, after he had drifted north. This is the period he would have personally interacted with the poets of the two capitals, Chang'an and Luoyang, although he may have already traded poems with men like Han Yu before this time. Han Yu's father was caught up, through family ties, in bad politics that got him exiled somewhere nasty, where he died in 781. Han Yu returns to the capital after that and passes the imperial exams in 792 after four tries, which means about four years of trying. Perhaps, the two men met through shared poverty, interests, and efforts, camping outside of town in the summers, sleeping in the same hovel in the winters, and failing the same exams every spring. That would put their friendship beyond silly things like religion and politics, wouldn't it?