Thought One of Four Poems
A lonely swan comes from the sea
Daring not to land on lake or pond
Looking aside, he spies a kingfisher pair
Three nesting on a pearled tree
Bravely at the tree’s top
Have they no fear of stones?
For those clothed in beauty invite people pointing
And the mighty face an evil god
And the admiration of hunters’ desires
Old friends, old poems
“Old poems are like old friends,” wise men say. “You should visit them from time to time.” We last visited Zhang Jiluing in November of last year. Then he gave us his first thought about his fall from power in 737.
I have reproduced it above.
Zhang, you may or may not recall, was a noted poet and scholar, titled the Count Wenxian of Shixing, deputy head of the legislative bureau of government, then chancellor to the Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.
But a chancellor’s good advice is not always well received.
In 736, General Zhang Shougui suffered a loss in battle because his subordinate General An Lushan failed to follow orders. An, who was of of Sogdian and Göktürk origin, was ordered to appear in front of the emperor to hear his fate. Zhang favored execution, saying that An was likely to commit treason again. The emperor disregarded his advice and Am remained a general. A year later, Zhang was demoted and died in 740.
Zhang’s prediction proved accurate. In 755 General An Lushan revolted and Emperor Xuanzong was forced to flee the capital.
Notes on translation
巢在三珠樹 Cháo zài sān zhūshù, Three nesting in a pearl tree or nesting in three pearl trees? I lean toward the conclusion that three are a crowd, and two of the emperor’s advisors ganged up against Zhang.
The beautiful bird in fancy feathers should beware.. Tian-tsui is an ancient Chinese art featuring kingfisher feathers and using the iridescent blue feathers of kingfisher birds as an inlay for art objects and articles of adornment, such as hairpins, headdresses, and fans.