Poems of Meng Jiao
List of the Immortals: Spending my last years in clarity
Red dawn, shining down pure.
Eight winds, arousing great harmony.
A spirit carriage comes for me
Taking me to the immortals' peaks
In a moment, beyond Heaven and Earth,
And the entire universe is my home.
I take in the white sun's spirit and
Drink the glory of the yellow moon.
In the midst of emptiness, a divine temple
Beside Peng's road which leads to deepest hell.
Looking back at Wei's virtuous peace
I know this turgid spirit will harm your peace.
Thinking hard like this, in the darkness,
I see our way leads to ever greater error.
This is the last of Meng Jiao's list of the Immortals poems. Like Oswald Spengler, Meng Jiao can feel the end of his age because, for him, it is almost there. Only a century or two away. What Spengler felt a century ago, now everyone can feel. And, of course, everyone now expects an apocalypse. With zombies. Something dramatic and satisfyingly cathartic. But apocalypses (and zombies and, possibly, satisfaction) never come. Rome was finally sacked. An age begun by the ancient Etruscans ended. And life went on. Romans still live in Rome today. Many of them are quite happy.
Surely, something is ending now. And everyone is in a kind of bourgeois panic. But it's been ending for so long that there's no need to worry. When you've fallen this far, you're almost at the bottom anyway. All that's lacking is a little inconvenience as things sort themselves out. And if you don't realize how far you've already fallen, you will never understand what Meng Jiao was feeling as he wrote this poem.
A note or two. Peng is the giant bird from the first chapter of Zhuangzi. And Wei was one of the Warring States, like Chu and Yue. 无间 is Buddhism's deepest hell.