Poems of Meng Jiao
At Night, I Feel Like an Exile
(From feeling lost at night, sitting, thinking of returning to Chu River and for my bitter hard study of poetry.)
I study at night through the dawn,
Bitter hard poetry to make gods and monsters sad.
So what if I can't relax?
My mind and body are enemies.
Die disgraced -- suffer but an instant.
Live disgraced -- long years of shame.
Pure laurel, without a limb left straight.
Blue river, remembering its long journey.
I think Meng Jiao is identifying with the exile of the king of Chu. This parallel of emperor Xuanzong's exile haunts the poetry of the Tang forever after the An Lushan rebellion. But Meng Jiao can't separate his identity as a poet with his empathy for Chu. "Study" (学) is clearly not the study he should be doing for his repeatedly failed exams. Meng Jiao's bitter hard study is always focused on poetry. In our time, there is no word for his effort. "Study" is what one does to assimilate a body of dogma. "Practice" is emulating others. What is the English verb for "strive for original perfection?"