Xu and Sun, near two thousand years ago,
Two friends about whom little now’s still known,
Both said to have set out, when young, to shun
Worldly ambitions of courtly careers—
Xu, apparently, did just so, while Sun,
The more gifted poet, perhaps, climbed up
By means of elegies and epitaphs
Elegantly praising late famous men
And suggesting his close friendships with them.
Neither is now included on the rolls
Of medieval China’s greatest poets,
Sages, martyrs, and cultural heroes,
But I wonder if Xu respected Sun
As genius of pragmatic rhetoric,
Making the argument it was the mind
And not the location—enlightenment
In the head, if not at elevation—
That defined the sage recluse—not mountains
Or a hut in principled seclusion,
But a calm mind in opportunity.
Or maybe Xu thought, good for you, Sun, but . . .