Poems of Xue Tao
Taking Leave of Secretary Li
Parasol tree blossoms fall, phoenix leaves his mate,
ascending mountain ridges, each more dreary and cold.
I wish you peace, although this poem I give you
will only be half-heard within your mourning.
My impression of this poem is that it comes from Xue Tao's time in Chengdu as a working woman. The first line suggests a personal intimacy between her and Secretary Li. The final three characters are "confusion of mourning your wife." So perhaps Li has spent time before with Xue Tao. But in this case he has come for comfort after losing his wife. So she would have written this poem for him to take away at parting. Then she would have rewritten it into her collection of works. Taken all together, what really impresses me is how uncommercial a context this seems to all happen in. Imagine going to, or being, a prostitute and having all this a part of the experience. When we look back at history, we must remember that what they were is completely different from what we are. We can dimly perceive the externals. But their interiors, the quality of their minds, are hidden from us. Or to say it another way, their gestures seem familiar but their motives cannot be accurately grasped.