Poems of Meng Jiao
A Sick Traveler's Chant
A husband moans in the night and
Each groan pierces his goodwife's heart.
A traveler groans all day and
The bugs and the birds chirp back.
A wife takes the sick in hand and
Fearful suffering slips away.
Servants take the sick in hand and
Fear of dying alone is overwhelming.
This husband has long been a wanderer
And his vigor is naturally deep.
But when he is bound by sickness, well,
Who is exempted from sighs?
Great oceans also have their shores.
Tall mountains also have their foothills.
Suffering on your own has no bounds
When the dust and the tears stain your clothes.
Meng Jiao seems older than the last time he was sick on the road. Less self-pity and more all-encompassing sympathy. Rather than the poem being only about himself, it includes all wives and husbands and wanderers.
I can only guess, but this seems a later, more mature poem. And so it is surprising that, coming after his love affair with the willow-branchless lady, he is still his first wife's husband in his mind. In spite of death, he keeps his first love. And in spite of unreciprocated love, he keeps his second. He treasures his loves.
The unidentified character in line 12 is possibly illegible in the scrolls.