Poems of Meng Jiao
Starving in the Snow
Starving birds peck together in the night,
Their wounded voices combining in sad song.
Freezing is like a constant knife and
Heaven kills without emotion.
Heavy snow crushes the parasol trees,
As I gather firewood on the ruined heights.
How will you know the phoenix's nest,
If you don't crush the birds of prey?
No one takes delight in this calamity. But
They fight over what the dead leave behind
And prey they won't be among the dying
And brag of how well they've done so far.
The nobility also take what the dead leave behind
Though this does nothing for their name.
If you would rebuild the phoenix's nest,
Avoid associating with the bird of prey.
I sing of starving in the snow because
Dawn brings no justice to the borderlands.
To understand Meng Jiao here, you must begin by realizing this poem is not about birds in any way. It is a poetic petition to the emperor, symbolized by the male phoenix. And the phoenix nest is the empire idealized. They birds of prey are 枭鸢, owls (symbol of evil men) and kites (symbols of murderous men). Then consider that it isn't even necessarily snowing, or winter, anymore than it needed to be winter in the last poem, which was about the winter of man. Here it is the winter of empire, with its decline of nobility and the suffering of its people. Some people don't feel the fall of empire until the capital is sacked. Some feel it when it happens and then sadly watch the consequences work themselves out, consequences which the unfeeling could prevent, if they would feel.