Poems of Xue Tao
Visiting Wizard Mountain Temple
Where wild apes cry, I pass into high emptiness,
as the road enters mists and all is fragrant.
This beauty cannot make me forget my precious jewel,
though the river's voice is a king's sad cry for help.
On any day or night, upon the balcony, beneath
rain or clouds, this temple speaks of Chu's demise.
When spring comes, all the sad willows in the garden
fight their uselessness by painting dark their brows.
For clarity. The precious jewel is what Daoist inner alchemy focuses on developing inside the abdomen. It is an experienced reality and not mere religious belief. Chu is the Kingdom of Chu, perhaps the early builder of this temple. I do not know what king is crying, Chu's or Tang's. By Xue Tao's middle years the Tang is in full decline. Willows are both a symbol of virtue and of women's beauty. And often they are likened to dark eyebrows as they overhang the water. This temple on Wushan (巫山) could be the same as Silk Washing Temple in Yu Xuanji's poem. It is the same mountain above the Three Gorges and both women are Daoists.
As far as I can tell, this is a full-blown regulated poem. It has the right number of lines, length of lines, and phrasing. It is phrased in a straightforward way, each pair of lines a couplet. It may be Xue Tao purposefully holds back her art when she writes for the average man. Or it may be that, over the course of her life and her friendship with poets like Yuan Zhen, she becomes better and better at her art. One supposes this poems comes later in her life after she has taken Daoist orders, is more independent, and so can travel.