Poems of Meng Jiao
After the Get-a-Job Exam, I First Work in Luoyang
Dust. And the sun will soon be down.
Hard ride. Horse almost worn out.
Good job? Not for me.
My white head in some library.
Official way? I won't get far.
I'm awkward. But I don't want much.
I really do love this royal town.
I swear I'll settle for a hut.
Emperor's city. Rich, tall gates.
Royal roads winding among mansions.
Jade river. Full of good and evil.
It slithers past my front yard.
I often seek out foreign guests
who, ill-at-ease, will pass through here.
This poem shows, I think, that Meng Jiao first worked in Luoyang before he became Wei in Liyang. Like Bai Juyi, they started him out as a librarian of some sort, among the scrolls. So far his poems have revealed that he left home early and married either just before or just after leaving home. His first wife dies while he is away working somewhere. He continues to be a literate-itinerant worker. Sometimes he chooses to work and live among rural people or to be off on his own. But I think he survives by finding literate work here and there. He goes to Chang'an for his exams, camping outside the city to save on rent in the summers and sharing hovels with other poor scholars in the winters. Because all he does is work on his poetry, it takes him six years to pass the normal exam and another four to pass the one which guarantees a job. And so, here he is in his first job in the old capital of Luoyang.