We cannot tell by which of the kings of Shang the sacrifice here referred to was first performed. He is simply spoken of as 'a descendant of Thang.' The ode seems to have been composed by some one, probably a member of the royal House, who had taken part in the service.
How admirable! how complete! Here are set our hand-drums and drums. The drums resound harmonious and loud, To delight our meritorious ancestor 2.
The descendant of Thang invites him with this music, That he may soothe us with the realization of our thoughts 3. Deep is the sound of our hand-drums
and drums; Shrilly sound the flutes; All harmonious and blending together, According to the notes of the sonorous gem. Oh! majestic is the descendant of Thang; Very admirable is his music.
The large bells and drums fill the ear; The various dances are grandly performed 1. We have the admirable visitors 2, who are pleased and delighted.
From of old, before our time, The former men set us the example;--How to be mild and humble from morning to night, And to be reverent in discharging the service.
May he regard our sacrifices of winter and autumn 3, (Thus) offered by the descendant of Thang!
304:1 The piece is called the Nâ, because a character so named is an important part of the first line. So generally the pieces in the Shih receive their names from a character or phrase occurring in them. This point will not be again touched on.
304:2 The 'meritorious ancestor' is Thang. The sacrifices of the Shang dynasty commenced with music; those of the Kâu with libations of fragrant spirits;--in both cases with the same object, to attract the spirit, or spirits, sacrificed to, and secure their presence at the service. Khăn Hâo (Ming dynasty) says, 'The departed spirits hover between heaven and earth, and sound goes forth, filling the region of the air. Hence in sacrificing, the people of Yin began with a performance of music.'
304:3 The Lî Kî, XXIV, i, parr. 2, 3, tells us, that the sacrificer, as preliminary to the service, had to fast for some days, and to think of the person of his ancestor,--where he had stood and sat, how he had smiled and spoken, what had been his cherished aims, p. 305 pleasures, and delights; and on the third day he would have a complete image of him in his mind's eye. Then on the day of sacrifice, when he entered the temple, he would seem to see him in his shrine, and to hear him, as he went about in the discharge of the service. This line seems to indicate the realization of all this.
305:1 Dancing thus entered into the service as an accompaniment of the music. Two terms are employed; one denoting the movements appropriate to a dance of war, the other those appropriate to a dance of peace.
305:2 The visitors would be the representatives of the lines of Hsiâ, Shun, and Yâo.
305:3 Two of the seasonal sacrifices are thus specified, by synecdoche, for all the four.