Poems of Meng Jiao
Looking for Thinkers to Drink with
If Cao Liu could not avoid death,
Who dares to betray their age?
Thinkers should not dismiss wine --
A poet's fate is bound to its essence.
Withdrawing as if exiled,
Li Bai became conceited and boastful.
It always comes upon one suddenly,
Just one day, and we all sigh together.
Who says Heaven's road is straight?
The lonely messenger's path is steep.
Southern poets have to worry about sickness,
Northern ones, of losing their homes.
Fragrance of plum blossoms is already gone.
Willow leaves no longer hide the crows.
Encourage each other to stop chanting vengefully
And together, lose our sadness in evening's glow.
The time for sobriety cannot yet have arrived.
Sea of sadness is broad, without a shore.
Three interesting things in this poem. First is Cao Liu who I can't quite identify. He seems to have been from the Three Kingdoms period which followed the Han. It could be another name for Cao Cao; but I don't think it is. I need a biographical dictionary.
Second is the criticism of Li Bai. Meng Jiao lived from 751 to 814. Li Bai, from 701 to 762. Meng Jiao seems to think that Li Bai played up his wandering life and was something of a twit. It's possible that Meng Jiao is correct here. Li Bai's poetry certainly feeds a lot of fantasies about China, even for Chinese fantisizers. Somehow this gets him a free pass for what could be interpreted as a huge ego. I'm not taking sides here -- I like Li Bai's poetry. I'm just questioning my own motives for liking him now.
Third is the final line which plays on "Sea of bitterness is deep and wide. Turn back and the shore is at hand." This is a widely quoted bit of Chinese Buddhism. But for Meng Jiao, in this poem, there is no shore. And note that, after Autumn Mind, Meng Jiao has Buddhist references in every poem so far.