Poems of Meng Jiao
A lyric, for the Secretary-General, reviewed by twenty-two officers, jointly submitted by fifteen officials, to Duke Li Yiduan, evaluated by Liu Zhen
Just now, pointing at the waning moon,
I write out our heart-felt words.
A blade of grass -- that's our fate.
The tall hills -- our master's kindness.
Wandering by your side, sandstorm of ideas,
Dreams of Chu engulfing my soul.
All day, saying goodbye, our sleeves
Are nine times stained with tears.
How can this sadness be right?
We make offerings morning and night.
Fame and gain, time changes them suddenly.
Right and wrong -- a howling in the dark.
Whirling emotions, some are hard to master.
All these worries of changes in the world.
Here, we're left with what makes us sad
And gratitude for the worthy wisdom of your words.
Brilliantly, three flying phoenixes
Illumined the world like the dawning sun.
The title of this poem by Meng Jiao is an elaborate spoof on the titles of poems which are commanded by emperors and similar. We have seen examples of these titles in the poems of the women court poets in their actual form.
This poem could be properly collated and come from the time of Meng Jiao's early officialdom. But I get the feeling it comes earlier, from his exam-failing years. If there are actually 15 or 22 people taking part in this goodbye, then all bets are off. I can't imagine Meng Jiao as part of any group that size. The final couplet suggests that only three are involved and this fits with the actual substance of the title -- Li, Liu, and the author. I think Meng and Liu are saying goodbye to Li and Meng does the writing.
I have no problem with Li actually being a duke (公). Li (李) is the royal lineage of the Tang dynasty. And the emperors, with their hot and cold running concubines, bred like rabbits. Or like very slow Gatling guns. Royal princes were a dime a dozen. Yu Xuanji had a prince for a childhood friend who she was close to all her short life, in spite of the incident of the goat cart. Li being royal would explain the reference to "master" (主).
The fact that I can't identify a Li Yiduan in the royal family just means that if he was royal, he was never a contender for the throne and avoided being strangled by one of his brothers. The prestige of the imperial exams didn't necessarily exclude shoving an undeserving prince through the system. But there were probably plenty of princes who weren't important enough to shove through. Such a prince, and given Meng Jiao's midlife fame as a poet, could well have been one of Meng Jiao's close friends. Passing his exam, they would have parted ways.
I also want to point out, as I haven't yet, that 鸾 isn't exactly phoenix, although I always translate it that way. It's a "luan" bird for which their is no English equivalent. There is no equivalent for the "peng" bird either although dictionaries try to say it's a "roc" ... as if that meant anything. A roc is a molehill to a peng's mountain. The two are not equivalent. Anyway, a luan was something like a phoenix and that's all we know. So we don't know a thing. HTH.