Poems of Meng Jiao
Accompanying two county graduates through ancient Qi from Dongting Lake to their posts in Xuan City.
Dongting Lake is in the wilds.
Our road winds through the void.
Two travelers leave mid-month.
One sail in a Heaven-born wind.
Fish and dragons sparkle in the waves.
Gold and jasper trees abound.
What is there to fear in this strangeness?
With honest effort, we will make it through.
The strange knocks and we can know vastness.
Gathering the unusual, we reverence the heights.
In true substance, we approach high culture.
Still in this world, we visit the immortals.
Xuan City is an elegant cultured place.
Thanks to its protection, all voices harmonize.
Its true value is easily proven to be strong.
In this estimation, who is not in agreement?
From here, let's cry only ancient Ruan tears
And avoid weeping over our difficult road.
Two young men pass the county level exams and have to go to Xuan City from where Meng Jiao is stationed near Dongting Lake. This is the land of Ruan, from Shang times. Now it is wilderness and our two scholars haven't gotten out much. They are no doubt afraid of travel. And they should be. They travel by boat and by foot through the wilds. And once they are on the roads they may have to kill in order to arrive safely. We know that Meng Jiao has used his sword to make it home before.
But this poem is really about love for the wilds. Meng Jiao, like Thoreau, loves wildness and wilderness -- a distinction made by Thoreau. It sounds like a beautiful autumn trip to me. But then, I love the wilderness too. Meng Jiao finds true substance in the natural world. And this substance is what lifts him into the heights of culture. These are not empty words. Their proof is in the endurance of his poetry. In this only world, we endure by lifting ourselves up into the infinite.