Poems of Meng Jiao
Listening to the qin
Rush of heavy rain comes to an end and
The sigh of oak leaves floats in the air.
Moon sinks into a jumble of western peaks.
Overhead, three or four scattered stars.
Down by the creek, suddenly a qin.
Through the woods comes its cool jangling sound.
I can tell he's just noodling around.
Guess I'd better get up and listen.
Light a candle. Pin up my hair.
Douse my face. Stand in the clearing.
Steeping firmly, my clogs sink in the mud.
I must look like a monk in the dark like this.
A gentle wind ruffles my clothes
And I realize he's playing in fourths.
I've studied qin myself for thirty years
But his is truly the sound of pathos.
I listen to him play through the night.
When it's over, the universe is full of love.
The setting seems to be out of doors. If Meng Jiao is living on the edge of town or out in the country, then 中庭 could be a courtyard and not a clearing. But you don't see the moon set and a few scattered stars in bed. I think he's out in the mountains where he lover to be.
The "playing in fourths" comes from 宫徵, the first and fourth notes of the Chinese scale.
At the middle of the second quatrain the poems turns unexpected. It's not about the qin as much as it's about Meng Jiao himself. This is the most personal poem in this way I have seen to date. The "I must look like a monk.." is more literally "Look really Zen..." keeping in mind that Zen is still Chan at this point and hasn't made it to Japan.
As a fellow lover of the wilderness (and one who takes along his stringed instrument), I note that if this is an out of doors poem, Meng Jiao must be in a little tent or under a little tarp, if he's lighting a candle. I still wish he'd catalog his mountain gear. But that's probably to much to hope for. All we get are hints.