Poems of Xue Tao
River Pavillion, Farewell Dinner
(Partially written at the dinner, partially by the river tower.)
Eating delicacies by the pond, everything seems distant.
Fan Wang is here with Deputy Li Bingzhou.
I left the dinner in a hurry. It was after three a.m.
I did not see your carraige. It broke my heart.
Now this is an interesting poem. Let's start with it being written partially at the farewell dinner. Writing means brush, paper, ink stick, and ink stone. Xue Tao had these at dinner? Was she there as resident performing poet? Could guests come up and say, "Gimme one a' your po'ms there, darlin'. Make it a good 'un,"? (Creative punctuation...) Or did she always have a brush and some paper up her sleeve and a bottle of ink around her neck? And if so, was that usual for poets to do so?
And then there's the poem itself. She is stuck at a banquet, wishing she were with Duke Somebody (if the 公 is indicative of rank here) and does a poetic line followed by an idle line, which shows she is writing poetry almost out of habit. She notices this and, irritated with herself, tucks it away. The evening drags on, way on past the time she was supposed to be climbing into the duke's carraige. But she finally gets away, runs through the night, and reaches the empty and dukeless pavillion on the river.
Here's the clincher. And at that point, she finishes the poem. More or less in the dark, she drags out the half-finished quatrain, ink bottle, and brush. At four in the morning, she adds the last two, not terribly poetic but certainly heart-felt, lines.