Living on the Ba Plain 1 in Autumn

Ma, Dai 2     (circa 844 A.D.)

On the Ba Plain the wind and rain just stopped.
At sunset I see many wild geese flying south 3.
The leaves of the trees in this strange land have started to fall.
Only a cold lamp keeps me company during the night.
White dew drips in the empty garden.
Next to the lonely wall is a traveling monk staying here overnight.
I have lived away from home for so long.
When will the emperor show me his favor?

1 The Ba Plain is now the White Deer Plain, west of the Ba river and east of Xi'an in Shaanxi Province.

2 In the late Tang dynasty, the officials in charge of the Advanced Exam were corrupt. Ma was very talented, but he failed the exam more than thirty times. This poem shows his frustration and homesickness. He passed the Advanced Exam in 844 A.D.

3 It was getting dark. The geese were trying to find a place to land as disputatively as Ma was searching for a position.