Poems of Xue Tao
Punished to Go with the Minister of War, in two verses
Fireflies in the wild grass, moon in the sky.
How could the fireflies ever reach the moon?
Moonlight shines so far it should shine on us both.
But I can't see beyond the sky and faith fails me.
Halting horses on mountaintops, colder than cold,
with steady wind and fine rain piercing my heart.
All I want is to leave here and come home to you.
I can't look at this pretty landscape forever.
I think this is from Xue Tao's courtesan days in Chengdu. She was becoming known as an entertainer of men, with her poetry and social skills. So the minister of war brought her along to lighten things up. Nothing like riding into the western hills in bad weather to make a person wish she were elsewhere. This isn't the first poem from this period that made me think Xue Tao had someone she cared about in Chengdu. I doubt, given how things work in this world, that they ended up with much time together. I imagine that many women in her situation hoped that a client would buy them out and free them from the guild. But women were obviously cheaper by the night. And men's words were cheaper than that.