Poems of Meng Jiao
After leaving war-torn Kaifeng, remembering Han Yu and Li Ao
Meeting you, I'm moved to tears.
Parting, thrice-broken heart.
Withered flowers don't wait for a breeze.
Spring over, each simply floats away.
Happiness goes, can't get it back.
Sadness comes, I can't avoid it.
Lonely gate, peaceful inn, night,
I lie alone in a moonlit bed.
Devoted, righteous, a bloody naked blade
On a road filled with the sounds of panic,
Showing mercy to the three thousand warriors
Who all at once have turned to evil.
On immortal isles, all men are righteous.
At the Barbarian Gate, they are otherwise.
Men's hearts have changed already and
Even Heaven seems perverse.
I kill and others kill, not yet
Knowing what good will come of it.
Surely, we are in the midst of chaos, dynasty-wise. Things never were stable after An Lushan. And, I think, this poem answers the question of whether Meng Jiao wields a sword. It appears that, in this chaos, he has killed upon the road.
Han Yu and Li Ao were political thinkers of Meng Jiao's time. They come down to us as "philosophers" and "essayists" but I think this does them a disservice. It's one thing to philosophize, like a Zizek, in the comfort of late capitalism. It's another thing to think and act in the actual chaos of violent times. And it's a greater thing for that thinking to be influential and to remain so for centuries.
When Meng Jiao writes of "showing mercy," it's hard to tell if he is speaking of Han Yu's and Li Ao's words concerning the rebellion and the treacheries involved or about his own thoughts and actions on the road.
The Barbarian Gate was the main gate of the capital of Wei in the Warring States period.