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The Song of a Traveling Son

Meng, Jiao 1 (751-814 CE)
Thread in the hands of a loving mother
Becomes traveling clothes for her son's long journey.
She sews with tight stitches right before he departs
For she worries that his return might be late very late.
How can one say that the heart of a short blade of grass
Can repay the gift of Spring sunshine?


1 Xing Li recommended Jiao Meng to Jian-feng Zhang, the Mayor of Xu-zhou City, by saying, "Jiao Meng masters writing verses with five characters to a line. His poems combine the merits of those of Du-wei Li and Shu-guo Su of the early Han dynasty, the Seven Talented Poets of the Jian-an Period, as well as Ling-yun Xie and Dao-yun Xie of the Southern dynasties." Yu Han wrote, "Jiao Meng is so poor that he cannot afford to provide for his parents. He has traveled all over China, but has been unable to find a job that can utilize his talents. He wrote, 'The coarse vegetables I eat cause my stomach suffering./ I force myself to sing,/ But my song is full of sad tunes./ As soon as I go out,/ I encounter obstacles./ Who says that the world is wide?' This poem clearly shows the extent of his frustration. In general, sages are proud of themselves. They do not associate themselves with a corrupt society. This is why one may see them but cannot recognize their talents. If one sees a sage but cannot recognize his talents, the result is the same as not seeing him. If one recognizes the sage's talents but fails to offer him a position, the result is the same as not recognizing his talents. If one offers the sage a position but fails to fully utilize his talents, the result is the same as not offering him a position. If one fully utilizes the sage's talents but allows others to slander him, the result is the same as not fully utilizing his talents." Yu Han developed this amazing theory of recruiting talent by analyzing Jiao Meng's frustrations.
    Dong-ye was Jiao Meng's alternate first name. He was a native of Wu-kang City (present day De-qing City in Zhejiang Province) in Hu-zhou County. He lived in seclusion on Song Mountain in his early youth. In 796 CE, he passed the Advanced Exam at the age of forty-five. Later, he was appointed as a junior officer at Li-yang-xian City. He was poor and suffered frustration all his life. Most of his poems expressed sentimentality about his own experiences regarding his suffering and were filled with a poverty-stricken tone.