Poems of Meng Jiao
Two rivers, spring's grasses, clear waters of the bay,
After ten years of war, the city walls stink.
Looting soldiers, murderous children, women all flee.
All March and April, no flowers bloom.
No one alive for leagues around, only dust-devils spin.
Swallows, warblers, chatter, cry from within the ruins.
Spring's colors never come to the graveside trees.
Fair women's white dead faces chase the spring away.
Spring comes. Spring goes. Who knows why.
Let the living see the flowers on their ancestral graves.
Then send them in their mourning out the mountain road.
This is the poetically harsh, unrestrained Meng Jiao. His recounting of war's traces on a city is an assault on the senses, on the forms of poetry, on even the cliché of the title. 伤春 is an idiom for the sensitive heart being "wounded by spring." But no one here is wounded by a spring that never comes. It is spring itself that is injured. A fallen city, stinking corpses, vestiges of looting, rape and death. The survivors are gone, having been marched off, possibly into slavery.
Meng Jiao treads heavily on your expectations from the title, keeping the deception going for only one line. Then he buries you in realistic detail of war's brutality. And what form of poetry is this. Seven-character lines are mostly used for two-quatrain regulated poetry. Tang poetry usually runs to the full or half quatrain. But this poem runs eleven lines. The breaking off of the odd line would have been felt by the reader. Like some of the stinking bodies on the walls, the poem is missing a leg.
I think this is a later poem, inspired by memories from his travels, written after he has passed his exams and has found work. It has a rootedness that such circumstances could explain. Keep in mind that after he found work, he refused to work and continued writing poetry -- with his superior's blessings -- at reduced pay.