MEI YAOCHEN (1002 1060)
Mei Yaochen was an official scholar of the early
Song dynasty whose poems helped initiate a new
realism in the poetry of his age. He was a life
long friend of the poet Ouyang Xiu, but he never
attained the career success of his famous
companion. He did not pass the Imperial
Examinations until he was forty nine, and his
career was marked by assignments in the
provinces, alternating with periods in the
capital. Twenty eight hundred of his poems
survive in an edition that Ouyang Xiu edited.
His early poems often are marked by social
criticism based on a Neo Confucianism that
sought to reform the military and civil
services; these poems tended to be written in
the "old style" form of verse (gu shi).
He was also a distinctly personal poet, who
wrote about the loss of his first wife and baby
son in 1044 and about the death of a baby
daughter a few years later. His poems are
colloquial and confessional and strive for a
simplicity of speech that suggests meanings
beyond the words themselves; as he writes in one
poem: "Today as in ancient times/it's hard to
write a simple poem."
I walk to East Stream to gaze at the water
and a boat late in shoving off as I sit by a
Wild ducks calmly sleeping by the shoreline.
No branch looks ugly when the old tree blooms
Short low rushes as if cut with scissors.
Sand so flat and pebbles smooth and clean as if
I don't dislike this place and yet I cannot
In thin twilight I return by wagon, my horse
Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping