Poems of Meng Jiao
Answering My Friends
Daylight shines on this pure river
And the depths of its beauty are revealed.
This gentleman works at high culture,
Cherishing an abundance of right thinking.
He polishes the stones of the blue mountains
And befriends the boughs of the green pines.
Blue mountains, without an easy path.
Green pines, hard to overturn.
Naturally, he uses common rhymings
And reads aloud from the Book of Songs.
He eschews the ways of others and
In solitude, he finds his peace.
He could not avoid this long journey
And will not be returning soon.
So what if this was not expected?
He meets the goodness that is suddenly here.
Daoist words are necessarily thin.
Confucian ways fall into decadence.
He wants to remain faithful to the end
And not cheat the hardships that he's faced.
Well, that was nice -- a straightforward poem. Not once did I have to struggle to make sense of five characters. In recent poems, it has often been that case that I know all the characters and nothing English rises up out of them. Then I have to fall back on the inherent parallelism of the form to create something that makes sense. And then hope that it makes sense.
This poem could have been written any time after Meng Jiao was thirty. In his life, his solitude could be metaphoric or real. He could be writing this in a comfortable house in a city or in the midst of the wilderness. I suspect this poem comes from his fifties, after he has become an official. But that's just a feeling I have.