To Prime Minister Zhang: Looking at Lake Dongting
In the eighth lunar month, the lake is peaceful,
Boundless waters blend with the sky’s horizon
Over the Cloud-Dream Marsh, the vaporous mist rising,
And the waves are breaking against the walls of Yueyang City.
I wish to cross the river, but there is no boat
And to live an easy life, I would embarrass our enlightened ruler.
As I sit and watch the angler casting his line,
Envying him for fishing.
Meeting Meng Haoran for the first time
In our last poem, we heard from Meng as he was leaving political life to return home. The stay was brief. Here we meet Meng as he arrives at Lake Dongting on his way to the famous city of Yueyang.
As we have learned, Meng is in his 40’s. It is a late start on a political career and Meng as we discover is not without misgivings. As we shall learn, Meng’s longing for the simple life, will win out.
The title identifies the location as Lake Dongting, 洞庭湖. This lake is a subject of many Tang poems. It is well-known for its yearly floods from the Yangtze and other rivers that flow into its basin. By August, the water and blue sky blend with a vaporous mist to make a glistening spectacle.
Zhang Jiuling is referenced in several Tang poems. He was a minister to Emperor Xuanzong, and a noted poet.
Embedded within the title are the Chinese characters for hope and gift (望 and 贈). The character for hope can also be translated as looking at, so take your pick. Literally, the poem is expressing Meng’s hope that the gift of this poem might curry some small favor with Prime Minister Zhang (張丞相).
The hallmark of Meng’s poems is his natural imagery and emotion. This style was favored by younger poets like Li Bai, Wang Wei, and Du Fu. Li Bai would acknowledge Meng Haoran’s mastery in his poem, Send As a Gift to Meng Haoran.
Wàng dòngtíng hú zèng zhāng chéngxiàng
bā yuè hú shuǐpíng
hán xū hùn tài qīng
qì zhēng yún mèng zé
bō hàn yuèyáng chéng
yù jì wú zhōují
duān jū chǐ shèngmíng
zuò guān chuídiào zhě
tú yǒu xiàn yú qíng