Poems of Meng Jiao
Same-Year Spring Swallows
Thirty teenage scholars,
An auspicious occasion, glad to be here.
Hearty singing stirs good influences.
Drunken dancing breaks blossoming boughs.
Thoughts settle as night alters the scene.
Happiness gathers in this fragrant time.
Horses gather around their leader.
The sound of music is a bit uneven.
Popular opinion is modeled on old ways.
The form of things cherishes new fashions.
Red rain drips upon the blossoms.
Green mist hangs beside the willows.
Amid the flood, they discuss right conduct
With southern softness evinced in pure words.
Former worthies and modern men,
They all basically write the same.
Bright mirrors, pure, unsullied.
Pure jade without a tainting flaw.
Forever apart from the sand and mire,
Each absorbed in admiring the stars.
I am filled with sudden anger.
The greatest fame lasts but a day.
There's a vastness denying me companions.
It's hard to wipe the moon from off the sea.
And suddenly my depression's over.
Friends and family, happiness unbound.
Wild ginger along a distant river and
Fragrant pears are what I really miss.
Floating impressions seem to come and go.
Who can say goodbye to aspirations?
Wish I could have saved my strong ambitions.
Somehow they've all been snatched away from me.
I'd say Meng Jiao was in his late forties or early fifties here. There's a darkness that comes to us about then. The changelessness of things narrows all horizons. Life begins to seem like a life sentence.
Meng Jiao, as imperial official, goes to a banquet of young students. He starts out describing them. But for two verses, the fourth lines turn cynical. So he begins to analyze his feelings about these young men more deeply. And doing so, his cynicism deepens across three more verses.
Then Meng Jiao sees the truth in himself and he's angry. But stating the truth for a verse settles his mind and anger passes. The final two verses show what he has discovered in himself.
When other writers describe the harsh edges and sharp barbs of Meng Jiao's poetry, this is the kind of poem they are describing. Meng Jiao is honestly depicting the examined life. And this is sometimes unpleasant. Many poets admired him for this very reason. The ones who disliked him simply didn't want to look at what he revealed because he makes it hard for them to lie about themselves.