The Wisdom of Confucius

Page 41 of 49



In hewing an axe-shaft, how must you act?
Another axe take, or you'll never succeed.
In taking a wife, be sure 'tis a fact,
That with no go-between you never can speed.
[Pg 193] In hewing an axe-shaft, hewing a shaft,
For a copy you have the axe in your hand.
In choosing a wife, you follow the craft,
And forthwith on the mats the feast-vessels stand.

[Pg 194]



Decade of Luh Ming



With sounds of happiness the deer
Browse on the celery of the meads.
A nobler feast is furnished here,
With guests renowned for noble deeds.
The lutes are struck; the organ blows,
Till all its tongues in movement heave.
Each basket loaded stands, and shows
The precious gifts the guests receive.
They love me and my mind will teach,
How duty's highest aim to reach.
With sounds of happiness the deer
The southern-wood crop in the meads,
What noble guests surround me here,
Distinguished for their worthy deeds!
From them my people learn to fly
Whate'er is mean; to chiefs they give
A model and a pattern high;—
They show the life they ought to live.
Then fill their cups with spirits rare,
Till each the banquet's joy shall share.
[Pg 195] With sounds of happiness the deer
The salsola crop in the fields.
What noble guests surround me here!
Each lute for them its music yields.
Sound, sound the lutes, or great or small,
The joy harmonious to prolong;—
And with my spirits rich crown all
The cups to cheer the festive throng.
Let each retire with gladdened heart,
In his own sphere to play his part.



On dashed my four steeds, without halt, without stay,
Though toilsome and winding from Chow was the way.
I wished to return—but the monarch's command
Forbade that his business be done with slack hand;
And my heart was with sadness oppressed.
On dashed my four steeds; I ne'er slackened the reins.
They snorted and panted—all white, with black manes.
I wished to return, but our sovereign's command
Forbade that his business be done with slack hand;—
And I dared not to pause or to rest.
Unresting the Filial doves speed in their flight,
Ascending, then sweeping swift down from the height,
Now grouped on the oaks. The king's high command
Forbade that his business be done with slack hand;—
And my father I left, sore distressed.
Unresting the Filial doves speed in their flight,
Now fanning the air and anon they alight
On the medlars thick grouped. But our monarch's command
[Pg 196] Forbade that his business be done with slack hand;—
Of my mother I thought with sad breast.
My four steeds I harnessed, all white and black-maned,
Which straight on their way, fleet and emulous strained.
I wished to return; and now venture in song
The wish to express, and announce how I long
For my mother my care to attest.

[Note.— Both Maou and Choo agree that this ode was composed in honor of the officer who narrates the story in it, although they say it was not written by the officer himself, but was put into his mouth, as it were, to express the sympathy of his entertainer with him, and the appreciation of his devotion to duty.]



The woodmen's blows responsive ring,
As on the trees they fall;
And when the birds their sweet notes sing,
They to each other call.
From the dark valley comes a bird,
And seeks the lofty tree.
Ying goes its voice, and thus it cries,
"Companion, come to me."
The bird, although a creature small,
Upon its mate depends;
And shall we men, who rank o'er all,
Not seek to have our friends?
All spirits love the friendly man,
And hearken to his prayer.
What harmony and peace they can
Bestow, his lot shall share.
Hoo-hoo the woodmen all unite
To shout, as trees they fell.
[Pg 197] They do their work with all their might;—
What I have done I'll tell.
I've strained and made my spirits clear,
The fatted lambs I've killed.
With friends who my own surname bear,
My hall I've largely filled.
Some may be absent, casually,
And leave a broken line;
But better this than absence by
An oversight of mine.
My court I've sprinkled and swept clean,
Viands in order set,
Eight dishes loaded stand with grain;
There's store of fatted meat.
My mother's kith and kin I'm sure
I've widely called by name.
That some be hindered better is
Than I give cause for blame.
On the hill-side the trees they fell,
All working with good-will.
I labor too, with equal zeal,
And the host's part fulfil.
Spirits I've set in order meet,
The dishes stand in rows.
The guests are here; no vacant seat
A brother absent shows.
The loss of kindly feeling oft
From slightest things shall grow,
Where all the fare is dry and spare,
Resentments fierce may glow.
My store of spirits is well strained,
If short prove the supply,
My messengers I straightway send,
And what is needed buy.
[Pg 198] I beat the drums, and in the dance
Lead joyously the train.
Oh! good it is, when falls the chance
The sparkling cup to drain.

Free Learning Resources