Poems of Meng Jiao
How could the ancient characters die?
Only sighs remain where they were renounced.
Bitter vines wind about those proud lanes
And water caltrops obscure the moon.
I have tried and failed to form them,
Vain mental efforts blown into whirlpools.
When will a great, long rain come again
To wash us into fresh rebirth?
This is a poem about tadpoles. 科斗 are the oldest style of Chinese characters. They are called "tadpole characters" by the Chinese because they all seem to have little tails. So the poem is also a poem of nostalgia for a golden age. And golden ages never exist.
The two human fantasies of history are the golden age and the final cathartic cataclysm. Neither historically occurs. The artifacts which make one suppose they were created in a "golden age" are actually created in a time as awful, if not more so, than one's own. But in that time, people had the idealism and the strength to create these artifacts. But this happens in all times. And, in the long run, all times are equally sucky. So it's the golden effort and not the suckiness of the times which fluctuates.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the Fall of Rome or similar, ends of epochs which leave everyone right where they were. And there they are today -- the Romans in Rome, the Italians in Italy, the barbarians still barbaric, plundering pharmacies for Viagra. And in these ages of cataclysm there are still golden age artifacts to be found. Just not enough to change the calendar's label from "End of Everything" to "Unattainable Golden Age." It's all completely relative. And if you live far enough out in the country, you can't tell the difference at any time anyway.