Poems of Meng Jiao
You often hear of the poor scholar's life.
You sigh that they will never smile with fortune.
But real men who take to the road for fame
Often lose their way and earn misfortune.
The ancients made friends and valued loyalty.
Today's men make friends only for a profit.
I urge all men to cultivate true values, and
Then express them everywhere on Heaven and Earth.
I've never cared for handing out advice.
But in this case it's really life or death.
I don't envy the fortunes of the rich and
I don't laugh at the ones who're bound to be poor.
The wealthy and the powerful know each other.
The rest of us are together on this road.
And because I know it's always been like this
I can head up East Creek, lie down, and watch the clouds.
I have the feeling that Meng Jiao either carried a sword or wanted to. In lines 3 and 4, he's almost distracted from his line of thought by the idea of the wandering swordsman. There have been other hints along the way. I think he is a swordless swordsman in his idealism.
The poem has both a worldly and a Daoist feel. The mentions of the road all seem to point to The Road. "Lying down to watch white clouds," 卧白云 in the final line, could also be "relax in the calmness of an adept." Although, I don't think Meng Jiao was a Daoist adept either. But he might have been something of one.
By any measure, Meng Jiao is cultured and wise enough to sense that the Tang is headed for a trainwreck. But this is true of those who pay attention in all hard times. The wealthy, in hard times, take their wealth for the natural state of affairs. And the ever-increasing poor, unwilling to look at the world, much less see it, become normalized to poverty. It's the ones who keep their eyes on the only world who see the trainwreck coming. And what can they do in a world of the unseeing. Rilke, in one of the Duino Elegies, said that the angels who move among us can't tell if they are moving among the living or the dead.