Poems of Meng Jiao
Early Spring in Chang'an
First light turns the towers red.
East wind doesn't stir the dust.
The lords are sleeping off their wine,
Their ladies arguing beneath the sun.
They don't go out into the orchards.
They don't go out into the fields.
Daily, they emerge from Western Garden
To gaze at the flowering willows' hue.
But I know that the farmers' spring
Never comes to a noble house.
Here, I think, Meng Jiao is nearing forty. He is taking and failing his imperial exams and hanging onto existence in the capital Chang'an. But not long ago he was among the rural people of the west. He knows what farming is. He knows what it's like to travel dangerous roads. And here he is in sight of the lords and ladies of the empire, who know about as much as all rich people do: how to spend their money, how to pass their time, how to almost hide their boredom. I think what he is saying is that spring doesn't enter the life of the rich. The poor know that it is springtime. And their lives show it all day long. The rich merely know that it is warm enough to go outside and quarrel as they re-enact the cliché of the willow blossoms.