Poems of Meng Jiao
A Play for Rootless
Chang'an's autumn sounds hollow.
The leaves howl their sadness to each other.
Emaciated Monk lies on the ice, chanting,
Whining, cherishing his golden wound.
His golden wound is not a battle scar.
His severe pain is found in this --
Your poem's bones arouse Dong Ye.
Your poem's waves surge and ebb.
Sometimes I stagger around town,
Startling people with my crane-like cries.
Too bad Li Bai and Du Fu are dead and
Can't see this comic madness.
Yan Monk arouses with his poetry.
In his kesha, he loves the latest upset.
On Mt. Heng, he disdains to kill for profit.
His mysterious powers spawn profundity.
He can fly into the heavens.
He knows the vastness of the seas.
His writing has an endless profundity.
Who can penetrate its depths?
In divine dreams he seems to come
To me and explain and talk of how
When plucking the moon from the whale's mouth
No one can avoid being engulfed.
Yan Monk shows his blessings
As all things flow from his hands.
He mends his coat of many colors and
Proudly laughs at all the crimson gates.
Brightness comes from having culture
And from keeping to the Way.
As heavy snow buries others' words,
His marching soul floats on the north wind.
It's time again to wander to Mt. Song,
To pay a visit to the immortal's village.
Spring grasses, bit by bit more green.
Spring hills, day by day more warm.
Distant warblers are singing to each other.
It's late and I fear there's only a few.
I miss you and your elegant aspirations,
Above vulgarity in spite of this vulgar world.
I believe this to be a later poem from Meng Jiao to his younger friend Han Yu. Meng Jiao is Emaciated Monk. Han Yu is Yan Monk. 燕 can be "swallow" (yan4), as in the bird. But here, because Meng Jiao thinks so often of the Zhou kingdom, I think it must be the Yan (yan1) kingdom of that period.
Han Yu was to become the inspiration of what we might call the Neo-Legalists, who resurrected Qin ideas of government, mixed with Han Yu's ideals, in a fundamentalist way. Kind of like the way Neo-Confucians turned Confucianism into a semi-fascist puritanism. We shouldn't blame Han Yu. But he was influential. Meng Jiao quotes one of Han Yu's more famous sayings here in part with 道所存. The whole quote is more or less, "When you find someone who keeps to the Way, make him your teacher."
Meng Jiao and his young friend were both outsiders who had difficulties in passing the imperial exams. From other poems, it seems the two made it through those years by camping outside town together in the summers and sharing a hovel together in the winter. I suspect there were more than just these two in the group of struggling scholars but can't identify any others.
Dong Ye (东野) is Meng Jiao, Wildman of the East. I have no idea which of the two men is Rootless.