Poems of Xue Tao
This green hero fills me with his scent.
Again and again, we briefly join in love.
Long days of passion are only a diversion,
Ignoring how soon it will grow cold between us.
A poem from Xue Tao's days as a working girl, I think. Perhaps a private poem, only preserved to be kept in her collected works. The first line makes it clear that this is not, as the title suggests on its surface, about mandarin ducks and grass. Cao3 (草) is "grass" but also "rough" and "casual." The poem begins with "green blossom" if you try to keep the ducks. 鸳鸯 can be "affectionate couple," "devoted married couple," or "lovers." Clearly, this poem is about lovers. You could translate it with the ducks. But no listener would miss the underlying message.
After the Tang, Neo-Confucians made it their job to put women back in their place. Tang women could become Daoist nuns and obtain a substantial measure of freedom. These NC fundamentalists were having none of that. In most cases, it was simply slander, as my translations have shown. In Xue Tao's case it was simply reality and no cause for criticism. Xue Tao had sex with men and wrote about it. People -- I'm talking "people" here -- have sex. This is a good thing. Objectifying it at any point is a bad thing. The good thing will keep you alive through times of hardship and homelessness. I am a witness to this power of human intimacy. I hope that all of these women who have been slandered had enough human intimacy to meet their human needs. I wish this for everyone.