Meng Jiao (751-814) caught my attention because of his raw, personal accounts of his sad and sorry life in verse. He received as much acclaim as he did disdain after his death for his writings. Some scorned his literary works as brash, disturbing and jarring. All three of these descriptions are considered an attribute for poets and writers of today.
Meng Jiao has been described as ‘a didactic would be Confucian moralist who ends up writing startling, ghostly and elegiac poems about his sorrows and idiosyncrasies, happy to portray himself as despised and sick with illness and self-doubt’.
Having lost his three sons when they were very young, then losing his wife too, one can fall into his words of sorrow with a obvious understanding. His career within the imperial was one of long and laboured miserly success. Jiao turned pages of his own years with eyes fallible eyes seemingly accepting his misfortunes by way of writing through mournful eyes.
Allowing heart felt reflection while observing from a distance a man with a broken heart and broken life we can see and feel at ground level the human condition and just one of the aspects of what it means to be alive.One moment I pity him, the next I scorn his lack of fortitude. He confuses my mind. Should I pity him? Or should I give him a good slap and tell him to get on with it? And after all that, when it all settles I laugh at his his brazenness – it must have been quite in your face in the 7th Century.
I don’t know about you, but I find Meng Jiao’s poetry incredibly more-ish.
Let’s compete with our tears,
let them pour into a lotus pond;
then we’ll wait this year and see
whose flowers drown in salt water.
Song Of The homebound Letter
Tears and ink brushed into a letter
sent to my family ten thousand miles away.
My soul leaves with this letter.
My boy becomes a dumb shell here.
Borrowing A Wagon
I borrowed a wagon to move my furniture,
but my goods don’t even make one load.
Don’t snap your fingers, wagon owners;
poverty is not worth one sigh.
I run like a servant for my hundred years.
All things bloom and fall like flowers.
Write a bad poem and you are sure to earn a post,
but good poets can only embrace the empty mountains.
Embracing mountains makes me shake with cold.
My face is sad all day long.
They are so jealous of my good poems
swords and spears grow out of their teeth!
They are still chewed by jealousy
of poets who are long dead.
Though my body is like a broken twig
I cultivate a loftines and plain austerity,
hoping in vain to be left alone.
The mocking crowd glares at me and howls.
A wonderful book to dive right in and immerse your self in the ever deepening Chinese Poetry.
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