"Despair" by Meng Chiao, copyright © 2000 by Sam Hamill. Reprinted from Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese, translated and introduced by Sam Hamill.

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Feature on Hamill's translations.
Meng Chiao (751-814)


Despair

Despise poetry, and youíll be named to office.
But to love poetry is like clinging to a mountain:

frozen, holding tight, facing death,
days of sorrow followed by sorrow.

The bourgeoisie are jealous of those
who love poetry: they flash teeth like knives.

All the old sages are long since dead,
but bureaucrats still gnaw their bones.

Now Iím frail, dying like a frond.
All my life I sought a noble calm,

a calm I could never achieve.
And the noisy rabble mocked me.