Poems of Meng Jiao
For Encouraging Right Conduct in Young Women
The Jiangnan estate is very relaxed.
An old place with only careless fences.
The young girls don't yet know their work.
I've been drinking and am growing sillier.
They all speak Wu around the house
So it's hard to make myself understood.
As hill spirits, at night they rattle the gates.
As water demons, they play in the pools.
I worry here, drunk and silly, over
My inability to sort out this poem.
Concubine fishing, her nature a towering strength.
Boy plowing, hands calloused like the Farmer God's.
I think I've gone back to infancy here, like a
Baby bird gathered up with the kindling.
I chant of Kongzi's hills in Lu and
My feelings sweetly overflow.
In the end, I learn to nurture myself and,
Rising respectfully, I follow my own lead.
This is probably about Meng Jiao's official residence in one of his several positions. Possibly the one in Li Yang where he did lots of poetry and no work. It's probably not his old family estate which we've visited before, as they don't speak Wu there near the capital. That said, this is a drunken poem.
Meng Jiao starts out writing about the house girls and their behavior. And then the poem wanders off, drunk and silly, into the weeds. It's hard to tell if he's writing this for someone or if he just found himself too drunk to write anything more focused but still felt like writing.
I'm curious about what "right conduct" for young women would have been, according to Meng Jiao. He seemed to enjoy watching them fish and swim and come in and out the gates at night so much he may have decided their behavior was just fine.