The Book of Poetry, tr. by James Legge, , at sacred-texts.com
2What's mightiest is—the man to be.
This powerful everywhere we see.
Where from true virtue actions spring,
All their obedient homage bring.
Whose views are great, and fixed his aims;
Who in due time his will proclaims;
Whose plans reach far; whose reverent care
His outward bearing shall declare:—
Him a true chief the people call,
And hailed his pattern is by all.
3Look at the present state of things!
Your conduct only chaos brings.
Low in the dust your virtue lies,
A drunken sot whom men despise
You seize the joy before you brought,
And give not to the past a thought. p. 391
Oh! bear in mind the kings of old,
And strive their statutes fast to hold.
4See whom great Heaven condemns! As flow
The waters from their spring, they go
To ruin all.—This lesson know.
Rise early, and go late to sleep;
Sprinkled and swept your courtyard keep;—
Thus to your people pattern be.
Well to your steeds and chariots see;
And bows and shafts, and weapons all,
Have ready at a moment's call.
So shall you stand prepared for war,
And keep the southern hordes afar.
5What officers and people need,
Give to them, both by word and deed.
Your princely duties do with care;
Of dangers unforeseen beware.
Be circumspect in all you say,
And reverent bearing still display,
From censure free of man or child,
Attractive ever, ever mild. p. 392
A flaw in mace of white jade may
By patient toil be ground away
But for a flaw we make in speech
What can be done? ’Tis past our reach.
6Words are your own. To speak be slow.
Say not, "’Tis but a word." No, no!
There's none for you your tongue can guard.
O’er it yourself keep watch and ward.
Answers to every word will leap;
Good deeds their recompense shall reap
If friends from you with kindness meet,
And subjects as your sons you treat,
Your line from age to age shall live,
And subjects strict obedience give.
7When mingling with superior men,
In friendly intercourse, oh! then
How mild your face! What harmony!
All wrong and error bow you flee!
When in your chamber, ’neath its light,
Your conscience keep as pure and bright. p. 393
Say not, "No one can see me here;
The place is secret." Be in fear.
The spirits come, but when and where
No one beforehand can declare.
The more should we not spirits slight,
But ever feel as in their sight.
8O prince, a virtuous course pursue,
In manner good, and fair, and true.
Keep on your acts a watchful eye;
Thus may you scrutiny defy!
Exceed not, break not, virtue's law;—
So shall you men's attention draw,
Their pattern prized, and free from flaw.
A peach one throws me; in return
I give a plum. Please here discern
Cause and effect together bound,
In certain sequence ever found.
Seek horns on lamb! It has not horns.
Your sense, my son, such seeking scorns.
9When wood is tough, and full of spring
It makes the bow with silken string. p. 394
Mildness and reverence base supply
For virtue's structure, broad and high.
I tell the wise man what is good;—
He does it straight in docile mood.
I tell the fool, and forthwith he
Denies its truth indignantly.
Such differences in men we find;
So wide apart is mind from mind!
10Ere you knew right from wrong, my son,
I held your hand, and led you on,
Showing what things were good, what bad;—
Such lessons from my lips you had.
And lest you should not clearly hear,
I held you gently by the ear.
A son since then your arms has filled;
And have you still a mind unskilled?
’Tis self-sufficiency doth hold
The early taught still dark when old.
11Before great Heaven's clear piercing eye
My life seems vain; its pleasures die. p. 395
Foolish and dark you still remain,
Wringing my heart with constant pain.
I taught you well; I never tired;—
My teaching but contempt inspired.
Your teacher? No, I was your bore;
You only shrank from me the more.
Ah! still the truth you do not know,
Though years have made your hair like snow.
12My son, thus plainly have I told
What sages taught in days of old.
Give to my counsels reverent heed;—
So shall you shun each guilty deed.
Lo! Heaven in anger seems to threat
With utter overthrow our state.
Not from a distance need we draw
The proofs of Heaven's avenging law.
Great Heaven is far too wise to err.
If lower sink your character,
And virtue still the less you show,
Your people you will plunge in woe.