Poems of Meng Jiao
In the 22d year, I find my younger relatives awaiting my return to the farm in Xingyi after I stopped there alone, expecting someone else.
Who said to stop at the old house?
The host hurries out to welcome his guest.
At first the young servants struggle to speak.
From fear they turn to sheer affection.
What could I ask from a place I had left?
What could I expect on my return?
Their food and drink was marvellously refined.
The guests all dressed in what you found them in.
A whirlwind carried off the empty mats.
A new moon rose over the abandoned wall.
This house once had a hundred servants.
Now this official has no proper home.
The master tries to hide his shame.
Winds sigh through a decaying house.
All the old connections are long-withered, too,
Dying away like this old stand of elms.
Their gift now shines in my heart's mirror.
I cannot speak in this clear light.
I am not terribly confident in my translation of the title. But the story here appears to be that someone told Meng Jiao to stop by his old home. Perhaps the person said he would meet Meng Jiao there. Instead, Meng Jiao finds the remnants of his relatives. The 舎第 in the title are "younger male relatives."
This must be after Meng Jiao has had an imperial appointment. Even a minor librarian is held in awe by the servants, apparently. But Meng Jiao is hardly one to care about class and station. He and the servants soon become good friends.
So he has a delicious farm meal where all the guests are just plain folks. The times are hard. The house is slowly falling apart. All this gentleman farm once was is all but gone. But the familyness of it all has moved his heart.
I should note that the 22d year in the title is the 22d year of that current cycle of 60 years. If you start with 1985 and hop back into Meng Jiao's lifetime you can figure out when the dinner happened. When he wrote it would be another thing. And Meng Jiao would be the official without a proper home.