Poems of Xue Tao
For the Poem Secretary Li Showed Me at Dinner
Graceful, timely writings in the elegant East Hall --
where shall I again meet such open feelings?
May I ask what fine person reveals this beauty of
ten thousand silky willows as jade smoke in the distance?
The 和 at the beginning of the title suggests this poem is an answer-poem to Li's poem. Translating this, many things are suggested. It is possible that Secretary Li's poem is flirting with Xue Tao in some way. Her praise of the willows might be a gentle put-down. "Ten thousand silky trailing willow branches like jade smoke in the distance" is something of a compound cliché. It manages to re-spin about five common phrases about willows in one line. And if Li clumped them all together like this, he's not your subtle poet. The dinner, or rather, banquet, suggests this is from her Xichuan hostess years. I can imagine that more than one distinguished guest, knowing that Xue Tao has come up from the courtesan guild, has hoped for her favors. This poem seems to be part of that elegant game. Xue Tao: 1 - Li Shuji: 0.