It’s a Long, Long Way Home
Did the stinging wind make his eyes tear, or was he crying?
The 8th century Tang poet, Meng Haoran was a long way from home, in Chang’an, wishing he was going home, feeling lonely, watching geese flying south, burdened by a cold northern wind.
Memories in the Early Winter Wind
As a wild goose flies south with the falling leaves,
As the water turns cold when the wind blows from the north.
(I miss) my home where the Xiang River bends,
Covered by the clouds of Chu.
My tears are all spent.
When I see a sail on the horizon.
Please, someone tell me where the ferry is,
For the water is peaceful and the evening is long.
Meng Haoran (ca. 690–740)
[Note. For no particular reason, I have designated November Meng Haoran month.]
Meng Haoran was a late blooming poet who, at the age of 40, traveled from his home in Hubei province to Chang’an to take the imperial examination (jinshi). He passed, but found the cold and the work not to his liking. He preferred drinking wine with friends (including the likes of Zhang Jiuling, Wang Wei and Li Bai), writing poetry and playing the lute. He returned home, but died shortly thereafter in 740 AD.
Notes on Translation
There is no such thing in poetry as a literal translation.
This includes the title, which literally is something akin to “cold morning on my mind.” Clearly, the something on Meng’s mind was home. Home was Xiangyang, in Hubei province, near Lake Dongting, in the cloud covered ancient State of Chu, along the Xiang River, a tributary of the mighty Yangtze.