Poems of Meng Jiao
Answering Minister Guo
Honesty and virtue are unchanged by death,
A thousand years and their color remains bright.
Poverty makes the idealist more resolute,
Preserving the Way above all else.
Every note of an old Xiaoxiang lute
Alone embraces the sounds of crisis.
The Minister has written a thoughtless poem
That makes the wise man weep.
How can we repay the wise, who
Remain forever resolute and faithful?
A few remarks. The Way is, for Meng Jiao, the Buddhist way. Buddhism and Daoism use the term in a similar way with different meanings. The old Xiaoxiang lute is a se from the times of Chu. Xiaoxiang is the symbol for the virtues of Chu, the suicide of Qu Yuan, and many other things -- a kind of container for historic nostalgia. The wise men "weep their tassels full", tassels being the tassels on their flat-topped official hats.
Finally, if this is a public poem and, knowing Meng Jiao, it might be, it is a frontal attack on Minister Guo's poem. Note that with all of Meng Jiao's avoidance of work and his outspoken righteous indignation, he was never banished. He may have been one of the most powerful poets of the Tang, politically speaking. Perhaps, in the minds of the elite, he embodied an ideal in an idealistic time and, with the chaos of the post-An-Lushan years, he was a symbol that the idealistic rallied around.