Poems of Meng Jiao
The Guilty Pine
Even if the pine tree is beautiful,
Why should hardship be its fate?
For two months, all trees under Heaven
Have been greener than this pine tree's branches.
Do not let the young explain.
Do not let the stupid decide.
It is his generation's noble timbre
To fast until he starves.
Others may play another tune
But I will speak the truth.
Jing River flows into the Wei but
Each keeps its nature, good or bad.
Heaven mandated four seasons.
Bloom and fade, each has its time.
He bloomed in a time of blossoms
And withered in a fading time.
We do not follow Heaven's mandate.
We do not respect its seasons.
But a pine will bow to no one.
Why must its purity stand alone?
This is at least the third poem about the noble pine tree. So it's time for the translator to make a wild-assed guess as to who Meng Jiao is talking about. All the pine tree poems come from around Meng Jiao's thirtieth year. This makes Cui Ning (崔寧) a good candidate for pinehood. He was the governor of Xichuan, the western of China's five districts. And Meng Jiao was a cultured wanderer of the west. When the Emperor Dezong came to power, he made a good beginning of sorting out rebellion, corruption, and taxation. But his judgment was never good and he ended up being an awful emperor.
Cui Ning had ruled the western district very independently, which made him a target of imperial jealousies. He was removed from his post and held in the capital. Cui Ning was apparently loyal to the emperor but considered the emperor's chancellor Lu Qi to be incompetent. This was possibly true, as Lu Qi then did all he could to implicate Cui Ning in another military governor's bid for power. The emperor believed the accusations and had Cui Ning strangled. So it is possible that these pine tree poems of Meng Jiao are about Cui Ning. It is even possible that Meng Jiao would have known Cui Ning personally, if at some distance. Meng Jiao was rising as a poet and even an unpoetic governor might have a poet invited to a banquet.