King Lî is not mentioned by name in the piece, but the second line of stanza 7 can only be explained of him. He was driven from the throne, in consequence of his misgovernment, in B.C. 842, and only saved his life by flying to Kih, a place in the present Ho Kâu, department Phing-yang, Shan-hsî, where he remained till his death in B.C. 828. The government in the meantime was carried on by the dukes of Shâo and Kâu, whose administration, called the period of 'Mutual Harmony,' forms an important chronological era in Chinese history. On the authority of a reference in the Ȝo Kwan, the piece is ascribed to an earl of Zui.
Luxuriant is that young mulberry tree, And beneath it wide is the shade; But they will pluck its leaves till it is quite destroyed 1. The distress
inflicted on these (multitudes of the) people, Is an unceasing sorrow to my heart; My commiseration fills (my breast). O thou bright and great Heaven, Shouldest thou not have compassion on us?
The four steeds (gallop about), eager and strong 1; The tortoise-and-serpent and the falcon banners fly about. Disorder grows, and no peace can be secured. Every state is being ruined; There are no black heads among the people 2. Everything is reduced to ashes by calamity. Oh! alas! The doom of the kingdom hurries on.
There is nothing to arrest the doom of the kingdom; Heaven does not nourish us. There is no place in which to stop securely; There is no place to which to go. Superior men are the bonds (Of the social state) 3, Allowing no love of strife in their hearts. Who reared the steps of the dissatisfaction 4, Which has reached the present distress?
The grief of my heart is extreme, And I dwell on (the condition of) our land. I was born at an unhappy time, To meet with the severe anger of Heaven. From the west to the east, There is no quiet place of abiding. Many are the distresses I meet with; Very urgent is the trouble on our borders.
Heaven is sending down death and disorder, And}
has put an end to our king. It is (now) sending down those devourers of the grain, So that the husbandry is all in evil case. Alas for our middle states 1! All is in peril and going to ruin. I have no strength (to do anything), And think of (the Power in) the azure vault.
417:1 These three lines are metaphorical of the once flourishing kingdom, which was now brought to the verge of ruin.
418:1 That is, the war-chariots, each drawn by its team of four horses.
418:2 The young and able-bodied of the people were slain or absent on distant expeditions, and only old and gray-headed men were to be seen.
418:3 Intimating that no such men were now to be found in office.
418:4 Meaning the king by his misgovernment and employment of bad men.
419:1 We must translate here in the plural, 'the middle states' meaning all the states subject to the sovereign of Kâu.