In order to search for talented people,
Emperor Wen summoned the exiled official 2 to Xuan-Shi Chamber
Jia's talent was peerless.
The emperor was so absorbed in Jia's conversation during the dead of night
That he moved a little closer to him.
It was deplorable that Emperor Wen only asked about ghosts and gods instead
of his people.
1 Yi Jia (200 B.C.E.-168 B.C.E.) was a famous publicist during the Western
Han dynasty. He suggested to Emperor Wen that the government reduce the power of
dukes, defend against the invasion of Hungary, increase agricultural production,
strengthen border forces, etc.
In this poem, Li ridicules Emperor Wen for pretending to look for talented
people, even though he was only interested in finding the elixir of life. It
alludes to similar problems in the Tang dynasty. Many emperors in that period
were also interested only in finding the elixir of life.
The important point is that Li judges an emperor by his ability to accept his
officials' wise advice rather than by the favors he gives to his fawning
2 The exiled official refers to Yi Jia. Emperor Wen appointed Yi Jia to be a
high-ranking official. Some powerful officials opposed the emperor's appointment
due to Jia's youth. Therefore, Jia was demoted to be the tutor of the King of
Chang-sa. Several years later, Jia was summoned back to the capital city,
3 Xuan-Shi means "announcing chamber". Xuan-Shi Chamber was the main council
chamber in the palace during Emperor Wen's reign.