Poems of Meng Jiao
Gentlemen, Do Not Despair. A Warrior Has Destroyed the Slanderer and Sends This Poem to You.
Gentleman, do not despair.
Hear my slanderer's song.
Among men, there is little peace.
Among the mountain forests, much.
Break an axle and you're stuck.
O'erturn the boat and you are wrecked.
You should know as you begin, day and night,
The waves grow higher.
Our descendants will destroy Confucius and
Wealth will be Mencius's downfall.
The noble and the mean have different odors.
Naturally, it is hard to be harmonious.
Good jade remains cool within the fire.
Honest gentlemen will speak, but not too much.
But in this age, it is as if
Everyone has left the Way.
Days come and go, unseen. But in
Autumn halls the fading light still shines.
Dark radiance illumines nothing,
While daybreak comes and wakes the sleeping stones.
The trees do not yet realize their forest
Nor the jewel that rests within the uncarved block.
Who grasps the jewelled branches of the Tree of Heaven
Can inscribe the music of the ancient dance.
This is one of those poems where almost every line needs too many footnotes. And I don't do footnotes. Only these useless remarks. The poem is about clinging to culture and maintaining it, in common with one's cultured peers.
Usually, when the first line of a poem is in the title, it is one of those poems which has become a touchstone and everyone from the Han to the Ming has tried their hand at it. This isn't, so far as I can tell, one of those. Or this could be a rendering of a song. But I don't think it is that, either. Songs tend to have lines of varying length. My guess here is that some Tang equivalent of a right-wing big-mouthed pundit wrote some poem or essay called "Gentlemen, Do Not Despair." And this set on edge the teeth of Meng Jiao and his right-minded, non-conformist friends. So Meng Jiao steps into the breach (once more) and fires this broadside across the original author's bows (to mix my warlike metaphors.)
But again, these are only guesses. It would be nice, in general, if the collators of the scrolls, who lived closer in time to our poets than we do, had taken the time to annotate them intelligently while they were at it. We know next to nothing about almost every poem and poet. Helping us know twice as much would have been an easy task.