Poems of Meng Jiao
Mourning Wu, as we consider the waters rising around us
You were born into a clear and thundering river.
When you died, that river had turned foul.
In vain were all your feelings for family.
You cried as the darkness fell.
In that long night there came no dawn.
Ancient pines. Gates forever closed.
Lute strings down where the green river ended.
Lines of poetry preserved on blue mountains.
Of old, the face of rank fragrant spring.
Now, only the grasses of a howling waste.
Alone, I search the mists for a reason.
But the first Confucian will not speak to me.
I have no idea who Meng Jiao is mourning here. Probably a king of Wu from the Warring States period. Possibly a poet of that place and time. An old-time scholar would probably know because some of the lines here could be taken from poems about or by a person from Wu. I am clearly not a traditional Chinese scholar. Or even a Western one. But who cares what I am. Let me get back out of the way.
One thing this poem confirms is that, towards the end of his life, Meng Jiao returns to Confucian ways of thinking. Although, being Meng Jiao, dogma of any kind is not enough. He would like to find something in Kongzi's writings. But, so far, he can't.
Isn't that second verse nice? It picks up the end of the first. And then it becomes a palimpsest of impressions. That seems like a moment of real poetic progress to me, whether he is aware of it or not. Sometimes you do something without realizing it and never come back to it. And then fourteen hundred years later, people stumble on it and are amazed. I'm sure that's happened to you as well. It happens to me all the time.