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FIRST EDITION . . . February, 1905
Reprinted .... April, 1906
SECOND EDITION . . . January, 1908










object of the editors of this series is a
-L very definite one. They desire above all
things that, in their humble way, these books
shall be the ambassadors of good-will and
understanding between East and West, the old
world of Thought, and the new of Action. In
this endeavour, and in their own sphere, they
are but followers of the highest example in the
land. They are confident that a deeper know-
ledge of the great ideals and lofty philosophy
of Oriental thought may help to a revival of
that true spirit of Charity which neither despises
nor fears the nations of another creed and
colour. Finally, in thanking press and public
for the very cordial reception given to the
" Wisdom of the East " series, they wish to state
that no pains have been spared to secure the
best specialists for the treatment of the various
subjects at hand.






" T T T HILE reading the works of Confucius, I have
VV always fancied I could see the man as he
was in life, and, when I went to Shantung, I actually
beheld his carriage, his robes, and the material parts
of his ceremonial usages. There were his descend-
ants practising the old rites in their ancestral home ;
and I lingered on, unable to tear myself away. Many
are the princes and prophets that the world has
seen in its time ; glorious in life, forgotten in death.
But Confucius, though only a humble member of the
cotton-clothed masses, remains among us after many
generations. He is the model for such as would be
wise. By all, from the Son of Heaven down to the
meanest student, the supremacy of his principles is
fully and freely admitted. He may, indeed, be pro-
nounced the divinest of men." *

This is the tribute of Ssu-Ma Ch'ien, the author of
the first great History of China, who lived in the first
century before Christ. Many centuries have gone
since the old historian, out of the fulness of his heart,
sang the praises of the Master and the supremacy of
his principles. To-day, as a thousand years ago, the
school children take their first serious instruction
from the five books, or King as they are called in
Chinese :

* " Gems of Chinese Literature," by Herbert Giles (Quaritch).

The Shu King, or Book of History ; The I King,
or Book of Changes ; The Shi King, or Book
of Poetry; The Li Chi, or Book of Rites;
The Ch'un Ch'in, or Annals of Spring and

The Shi King, or Book of Poetry, from which these
poems are rendered through the prose translations
of Professor Legge in his great series of Chinese
classics, was compiled by Confucius about 500 B.C.
from earlier collections which had been long existent,
two of which, we know from an ode written about
780 B.C., were called Ya and Nan respectively. The
oldest of these odes belong to the Shang dynasty,
1765-1122 B.C. ; the latest to the time of King Ting,
605-585 B.C. The odes may be roughly divided into
two classes : (i) The Songs of the People ; (2) The
Official Odes. Professor Giles, in his "History of
Chinese Literature" (Heinemann), divides the latter
into three classes : (a) Odes sung at ordinary enter-
tainments given by the suzerain ; (b) Odes sung on
grand occasions when the feudal nobles were gathered
together ; (c) Panegyrics and sacrificial odes.

The great importance that Confucius placed upon
the Book of Poetry may be gathered from the follow-
ing anecdote : One day his son Le was passing
hurriedly through the Court, when he met his father
standing alone lost in thought. Confucius, on seeing
his son, addressed him thus

" Have you read the Odes ? "

He replied, "Not yet."

"Then," said Confucius, " if you do not learn the
Odes, you will not be fit to converse with."*

* Confucianism and Taoism," by Sir Robert Douglas (S.K.C.K.)


To understand this, we must know something ot
the character and teachings of Confucius. William
Morris was to some extent the Confucius of his
age. Both men dreamt of a golden past a past
brilliant with heroic deeds, mellowed with peace,
and serene beneath the first clear dawn of ancient
wisdom. Both drew inspiration from the unstained
springs of poetry. Morris went back to the sagas
of the North and the tales and tragedies of the early
Greeks ; Confucius to the odes and ballads of his
own country. For Morris, "the idle singer of an
empty day," the world had grown old and careworn
and unheroic. Confucius, too, was born out of his
due time. The world his world of petty princelings
and court intriguers and oppression was not ripe
for the great gospel of humanity he had come to
preach. Each failed lamentably in politics, and
succeeded elsewhere : Confucius as the transmitter
of the wisdom of the ages, the revealer of human
goodness through conduct and knowledge ; William
Morris as the inspired prophet of beauty, the teacher
of good taste to the hideous Victorian age in which
he was born. When the dogmas and economics
of his socialism are forgotten, this influence will

Lastly, and perhaps greatest parallel of all, both
passionately loved the people. Confucius, when
asked how the superior man attained his position,
said : " He cultivates himself so as to bring rest
unto the people." Again he said: "To govern a
country of a thousand chariots, there must be
reverent attention to business, and faithfulness,


economy in expenditure, and love for the people. "
Both recognised, as all great men must, that there
is more to be learnt from the natural man, the man
who lives next to nature, and through his toil knows
something of her ways and moods, than the artificial
mime of ancient court or modern drawing-room. It
was through the Odes that Confucius taught his
own generation to understand the manners and
customs and the simple feelings of the men of old.
Here are no great poems written by highly cultivated
men, but songs that came naturally from the hearts
of all, concerning their little troubles, their hopes
and fears, the business in which they were engaged.
The farmer sings of his husbandry.

He gives us this picture of the workers over the
land coming to clear the virgin soil of the grass and
brushwood that cover it. "There they go in
thousands, two and two, side by side, tearing the
roots out of the soil ; some to the marshlands, some
where the dry paths wind through the meadows, and
some by the river banks. There is the master
inspecting all, with his sons ready at hand, followed
by their households ; there also are the neighbours
who have come to help ; there the hired servants.
Now the feast has begun, sounds of revelry are
heard ; the husbands' hearts are full of love as they
sit with their wives by their side. Now they begin
again patiently to prepare the southern lands,
breaking the soil with the ploughshare. Many kinds
of grain they sow ; soon strange life will arise from
every ear, when the young blades raise their heads
from the ground. See the young blades arise in long


unbroken lines that day by day grow and spear
before us. Fertile is the swelling seed, and through
it go the labourers who weed it over and over again.
A little while and the reapers have come ; the golden
grain is stacked high, the straw innumerable is
multiplied. There is sufficient to make the spirits
glad, to offer to the shades of our fathers, and
yield whatever the rites require ; sufficiency for the
kings and nobles to give mighty banquets, when at
the fragrant feast both host and guest sit down
together ; there is enough when the feast is over to
satisfy the aged poor and cheer them with a never-
ending abundance. Not now alone, but from all
time and in all lands, the earth repays a thousand-
fold to those who toil."

Such is the song of husbandry three thousand years
ago. What joyousness is here ! What scenes of
peace and simple festival of family love and delight
in the land !

Again some officer in the days of good King Wan,
galloping along a clear road on the king's service,
hammers out the splendid galloping song, called
" King's Messenger," in the present book, to the
beat of his galloping horses' hoofs. No such poem
was elaborated in garden or grove where the poets
clustered, and drank, and sang. It comes straight
from the heart of this nameless envoy of old, fiercely
exulting in his own untiring energy and in the
mettle of his splendid steeds. How many of these
poems declare the joys of work bravely attempted
bravely done ! These little sagas of blood and brain
can teach us more of life than all the threadbare


moralities which serve as poetry in the modern day.
How modern they are ! Yes, indeed ! as long as
colour is colour, and life is life. As long as youth
with its sublime folly will wait all night for the
tryst that is never kept, these poems, the earliest
collection of secular songs we know, will remain
fresh and charm us to the end. These old writers,
viewing nature at first hand and not through the
medium of any books, wrote faithfully of what they
felt and saw.

"With what delight does the eye wander over the
surrounding landscape ! Very gently the river glides
along through the plain, which it makes beautiful
with the long canal formed by its waters. To the
south rise great mountains in the shape of an
amphitheatre, while, on the further bank, reeds and
pines, covered with a never-fading verdure, invite
the fresh breath of the cooling winds. Happy
places ! those who dwell in you live like brothers.
Never is the voice of discord heard among you.
What glory shall be yours ! The prince, whose
heritage you are, hath chosen you for his abode.
Already is the plan of his palace formed ; proud walls
arise, and grand terraces are building on the east
and west. Haste to come, great prince ! O haste
to come ; sports and pleasure wait upon thy coming.
The solid foundations, which are now being laid
with redoubled strokes of the hammer, display thy
wisdom. Neither rains nor storms shall ever
prevail against them. Never shall the insect which
creeps or walks penetrate thy habitation. The
guard who watches is sometimes surprised, the


swiftest dart may err, the frightened pigeon forgets
the use of its wings, and the pheasant with
difficulty flies before the eagle ; but before thee
every obstacle vanishes. With what majesty do
these colonnades rear their fronts ! How immense
are those halls ! Lofty columns support the ceiling,
the brightness of the day illuminates them and pene-
trates them on all sides. It is here that my prince
reposes ; it is here that he sleeps, upon long mats
woven with great art."

Often the song is one that only a woman could
have sung. Some lady of the harem of King Wan
praises the queen, who is never jealous of the inferior
wives, but cherishes them as some great tree
cherishes the creepers that gather round it. Again,
"the ripe plums are falling from the bough; only
seven-tenths of them remain ! If any desire to
marry me, now has the fortunate time arrived ! "
In the second verse only three-tenths are left ; in the
third she had gathered them all into her basket : the
lover has only to speak the word, and she will be his.
Many of these odes are undoubtedly the work of
women. The European idea that Chinese women
are, and always have been, the closely prisoned
slaves of their husbands, idle and soulless and
ignorant, has been dispelled by Professor Giles in
his interesting "Chinese Sketches" published by
Kegan, Paul & Co. "In novels, for instance," he
writes, "the heroine is always highly educated
composes finished verses, and quotes from Confucius ;
and it is only fair to suppose that such characters
are not purely and wholly ideal. Besides, most


young Chinese girls whose parents are well off are
taught to read. ..." According to Legge, there
was more freedom of movement allowed to women
in the days when the odes were written and collected,
before the custom of cramping the feet was intro-
duced ; consequently their minds were more able to
expand from contact with the outer world, and
better fitted for literary tasks. The names of the
ladies Pan-Chieh-Yu and Fang Wei-I are well known
to every student of Chinese literature.

Perhaps the great importance of the odes, first
grasped by Confucius, and afterwards by the whole
of China, lies in the fact that they are no mere
abstract creations of an imaginative brain. Each
one of these nameless poets writes about himself or
herself; their sorrows, their aspirations, their out-
look on their own times, contented or gloomy, are
all chronicled herein. In the official odes we see
the feudal princes coming to town to greet their
sovereign lord. The state-carriages with their four-
horse teams have gone to greet them. What gifts
has the king to bestow on those he delights to
honour? Bring forth the dark-coloured robes
embroidered with the dragon, and the silken skirts
with the hatchet design upon them. See, they are
coming, you may tell by the dragon flags that wave
before them coming, by the hwuy-hwuy sound of the
bells that reaches us. By the bright red buskins
that cover the knees we know them. These are the
princes !

No great poetry to be sure ! no monolith of in-
spired travail by a giant race that may stand alone


in the time-deserted regions of sand and silence !
These are just the natural song's that float upward
from the happy valleys and down the sedge-strewn
banks of the wandering K'e. Above all, they are
naive and bright as on their birthday, with that most
precious quality of truth and unconscious art which
never lets them tarnish or fade. The king is very
wicked ! The poor groom of the Chamber to His
Majesty gives vent to his sorrow in song. He lets
you know all about it. The royal naughtiness stands
clearly revealed, not by any calico-tearing epithets
such as a modern poet affrights the ears of a Sultan
with, but just a gentle bland admonishment, a little
dirge of political desolation and the knell of a falling

I have put, or tried to put, these poems back into
poetry. Four of these pieces have been exquisitely
rendered by my friend Mr Allen Upward, and speak
for themselves.* As regards my own reasons for
rendering Chinese poetry into English verse, I am
content to shelter myself behind the great authority
and judgment of Sir John Davis, who, in his " Poetry
of the Chinese," contends that "verse must be the
shape into which Chinese, as well as other poetry,
must be converted, in order to do it mere justice."
I will, however, take the opportunity of saying, in
conclusion, that the great literatures of the world
have been too long in the hands of mere scholars, to
whom the letter has been all-important and the spirit

* Namely : " The Prayer of Ching," p. 25 ; " Through Eastern
Gates," p. 30 ; " The Pear-Tree," p. 34 ; "Blue Collar," p. 39.


nothing. The time has come when the literary man
should stand forth and claim his share in the revela-
tion of truth and beauty from other lands and
peoples whom our invincible European ignorance
has taught us to despise.



YOU came a simple lad
In dark blue cotton clad,
To barter serge for silken wear ;
But not for silk you dallied there.
Ah ! was it not for me
Who led you through the K'e,
Who guided you
To far Tun-K'ew?

" It is not I who would put off the day ;
But you have none your cause to plead,"
I said, "O love, take heed,
When the leaves fall do with me what you may.'

I saw the red leaves fall,

And climbed the ruined wall,

Towards the city of Fuh-kwan

I did the dim horizon scan. +

" He cometh not," I said,

And burning tears were shed :

You came I smiled,

Love reconciled,

You said, " By taper reed and tortoise-shell,

I have divined, and all, O love, is well."


"Then haste the car," I cried,

"Gather my goods and take me to thy side."

Before the mulberry tree

With leaves hath strewn the lea,

How glossy-green are they ! how rare !

Ah ! thou young thoughtless dove beware !

Avoid the dark fruit rife

With sorrow to thy life.

And thou, whose fence

Is innocence,

Seek no sweet pleasuring with any youth !

For when a man hath sinned, but little shame

Is fastened to his name,

Yet erring woman wears the garb of ruth.

When the lone mulberry tree

With leaves bestrews the lea,

They yellow slowly, slowly down

From green to gold, from gold to brown.

Three sombre years ago

I fled with you, and lo,

The floods of K'e

Now silently

Creep to the curtains of my little car.

Through cloud and gloom I was your constant


Now you have gone from sight,
And love's white star roams aimleis through

the night.


For three long years your wife,

Toil was my part in life,

Early from sleep I rose and went

About my labour, calm, content ;

Nor any morn serene

Lightened the dull routine.

Early and late,

I was your mate,

Bearing the burdens that were yours to share.

Fain of the little love that was my lot,

Ah, kinsmen scorn me not !

How should ye know when silence chills despair?

Old we should grow in accord,

Old and grief is my lord.

Between her banks the K'e doth steer,

And pine-woods ring the lonely mere.

In pleasant times I bound

My dark hair to the sound

Of whispered vows

'Neath lilac boughs,

And little recked o'er broken faith to weep.

Now the grey shadows o'er the marshland creep :

The willows stir and fret :

Low in the west the dull dun sun hath set


ALLOPING, galloping, gallant steed;
VJT Six reins slackened and dull with sweat,
Galloping, galloping still we speed,
Seeking, counselling, onward set.

Galloping, galloping, piebald steed ;
Six reins, silken reins, start and strain,
Galloping, galloping, still we speed,
News what news from the King's domain.

Galloping, galloping, white and black ;
Six reins glossy and flaked with foam,
Galloping, galloping, look not back !
On for the King for the King we roam.

Galloping, galloping, dappled grey ;
Six reins true to the hand alone,
Galloping, galloping, night and day,
Seeking, questioning, galloping, gone !


COLD and keen the north wind blows,
Silent falls the shroud of snows.
You who gave me your heart
Let us join hands and depart !
Is this a time for delay ?
Now, while we may,
Let us away.

Wailingly the north wind goes,
Wailing through a whirl of snows.
You who gave me your heart
Let us join hands and depart !
Is this a time for delay ?
Now, while we may,
Let us away.

Only the lonely fox is red,
Black but the crow-flight overhead.
You who gave me your heart,
The chariot creaks to depart,
Is this a time for delay ?
Now, while we may,
Let us away.



T "\ 7 AN drew a tower of bold ascent,

V V A tower of lofty size.
In crowds the zealous builders went,
The walls began to rise.

" Haste not," said he, when first the work began ;
But all the people were as sons of Wan.

The King was in the wondrous park,

The does so sleek and brown

Lay couched in fern ; from dawn to dark

White birds came glistening down ;

The King was by the pond whose waters hold

A thousand carp with ruddy scales of gold.

Upon his posts the fretted board

Is hung with drums and bells ;

What music chimes from their accord,

What sound of laughter swells

From the pavilion of the circling pool

Where joy and Wan, the brother monarchs, rule

What harmony of bells and drums !

What call of drums and bells !

Beyond the flaming water comes

What sound of happy spells.

The blind musicians blind us with delight ;

While the deep lizard drums roll on till night.


TWO youths into their boats descend,
Whose shadows on the waters sway ;
Ah ! light hearts bravely sped away,
My heavy heart forbodes the end.

Two youths into their boats descend,
Two lives go drifting far from me ;
Between the willow glooms I see
Death lurking at the river's bend.


r I ^HE blue flies buzz upon the wing-,

_L From fence to fence they wander ;
O happy King! O courteous King!
Give heed to no man's slander.

The noisy blue flies rumble round,
Upon the gum-trees lighting ;
A tongue of evil hath no bound,
And sets the realm a-fighting.

The clumsy blue flies buzzing round
Upon the hazels blunder ;
O cursed tongue that knows no bound,
And sets us two asunder.


WHEN the great carriage rumbles by,
I see him in his robes of state,
Calm, pitiless, sedate.
Man of the cold far-piercing eye,

but I long for you,

Right for you, wrong for you,

Naught could keep us apart,

But the cold eye reading my heart.

When the great carriage rumbles on,
In robes of state carnation red

1 see the man of dread,

Bright gleaming robes and glance of stone,

O then I long for you,

Right for you, wrong for you,

Naught could keep us apart

But the cold eye reading my heart.

Together we may never bide,

Nor you and me one roof contain,

But death shall not divide ;

The same close grave shall wed the twain.

Say ! am I cold to you ?

Nay ! I will hold to you,

By the bright sun I swear,

O my life, my love, my despair.


from the spring the waters pass
v_x Over the waving pampas grass.
All night long in dream I lie,
Ah me ! ah me ! to awake and sigh
Sigh for the City of Chow.

Cold from the spring the rising flood
Covers the tangled southernwood.
All night long in dream I lie,
Ah me ! ah me ! to awake and sigh
Sigh for the City of Chow.

Cold from its source the stream meanders,
Darkly down through the oleanders.
All night long in dream I lie,
Ah me ! ah me ! to awake and sigh
Sigh for the City of Chow.


LET me be reverent, be reverent,
Even as the way of Heaven is evident,
And its appointment easy is to mar.

Let me not say, " It is too high above,"
Above us and below us doth it move,
And daily watches wheresoe'er we are.

It is but as a little child I ask,

Without intelligence to do my task,

Yet learning, month by month, and day by day,

I will hold fast some gleams of knowledge bright.
Help me to bear my heavy burden right,
And show me how to walk in wisdom's way.



VEN as a little helpless child am I,

J / On whom hath fallen the perplexed affairs

Of this unsettled state. High loneliness
And sorrow are my portion. Thou great Father,
Thou kingly pattern of parental awe,
Whose mind for ever in the courts beheld,
Roaming, the royal image of thy sire,
Night long and day long, I the little child
Will so be reverent.

O ye great kings !

Your crowned successor crowns you in his heart.
Live unforgotten. Here, upon the verge
Of the momentous years, I pause and trace
The shining footsteps of my forefathers,
And the far-distant goal that drew them on
Too distant for my range. Howe'er resolved
I may go forward, lo ! a thousand tracks
Cause me to swerve aside. A little child
Only a little child I am too frail
To cope with the anxieties of state
And cares of king-craft. Yet I will ascend

Into my Father's room, and through the courts
Below, for ever seeking, I will pass,
To brush the skirts of inspiration
And touch the sleeves of memory.

O great

And gracious Father, hear and condescend
To guard, to cherish, to enlighten me.


DEEP in the grass there lies a dead gazelle,
The tall white grass enwraps her where

she fell.

With sweet thoughts natural to spring,
A pretty girl goes wandering
With lover that would lead astray.

The little dwarf oaks hide a leafy dell,
Far in the wilds there lies a dead gazelle ;
The tall white grass enwraps her where she fell,

And beauty, like a gem, doth fling

Bright radiance through the blinds of spring.

"Ah, gently ! do not disarray

My kerchief ! gently, pray !

Nor make the watch-dog bark

Under my lattice dark."


BY the shores of that lagoon,
Where the water-lily lies,
Where the tall valerians rise
Slender as the crescent moon,
Goes He'a Nan . . . Ah, He'a Nan,


Online LibraryL. (Launcelot) Cranmer-ByngThe odes of Confucius → online text (page 1 of 2)