Poems of Meng Jiao
In the mountains, a letter for my cousin
I have no treasures to hand.
Words have brought me worldly fame.
I leave no traces in these mountains.
I've long inclined toward the ways of men.
Honesty and virtue come by a hard school.
My ways are outside the common voice.
You should pity my withering away.
I am startled here by feelings of mortality.
I am startled here by the personal depth of this poem. In many poems, the content is all down in the second layer beneath a poetic facade. I believe this to be the surface layer. You would have to distort the poem to make it prettier or shallower.
Meng Jiao is alone in the mountains. And in the mountains, once you are beyond the reach of man, you are confronted by your self. Hunters and fishers and runners and such avoid this confrontation by keeping themselves occupied and by staying for the most part within the reach of man. But if you go farther and eschew busyness, you are face to face with what you are. And this tiny self is in stark contrast to the immensity of wildness. On a high wooded slope in a strong wind or alone under a tarp in a violent storm, one is very small in a world where time passes very slowly.
Alone in the mountains, Meng Jiao is reflecting on his smallness, which we all share. One could hardly pack more honest reflection into forty characters if you tried.