〈豳風〉

Bin was the ancestral land of the Zhou royal house in present-day central Shaanxi and was associated with the Zhou legendary ancestor Lord Millet (cf. no. 245). These poems are some of the most important in the collection, with numerous references to the “eastern campaign” of the Duke of Zhou, presumably because he drew his troops from this stronghold of Zhou power when he went east to subdue a rebellion of Shang loyalists. The first poem in the set, “The Seventh Month,” is an important rhapsody on the activities ofthe agricultural year.

154〈豳風・七月〉

Legge

In the seventh month, the Fire Star passes the meridian;
In the 9th month, clothes are given out.
In the days of [our] first month, the wind blows cold;
In the days of [our] second, the air is cold;
Without the clothes and garments of hair,
How could we get to the end of the year?
In the days of [our] third month, they take their ploughs in hand;
In the days of [our] fourth, they take their way to the fields.
Along with my wife and children,
I carry food to them in those south-lying acres.
The surveyor of the fields comes, and is glad.

In the seventh month, the Fire Star passes the meridian;
In the ninth month, clothes are given out.
With the spring days the warmth begins,
And the oriole utters its song.
The young women take their deep baskets,
And go along the small paths,
Looking for the tender [leaves of the] mulberry trees.
As the spring days lengthen out,
They gather in crowds the white southernwood.
That young lady’s heart is wounded with sadness,
For she will [soon] be going with one of our princes as his wife.

In the seventh month, the Fire Star passes the meridian;
In the eighth month are the sedges and reeds.
In the silkworm month they strip the mulberry branches of their leaves,
And take their axes and hatchets,
To lop off those that are distant and high;
Only stripping the young trees of their leaves.
In the seventh month, the shrike is heard;
In the eighth month, they begin their spinning;
They make dark fabrics and yellow.
Our red manufacture is very brilliant,
It is for the lower robes of our young princes.

In the fourth month, the small grass is in seed.
In the fifth, the cicada gives out its note.
In the eighth, they reap.
In the tenth, the leaves fall.
In the days of [our] first month, they go after badgers,
And take foxes and wild cats,
To make furs for our young princes.
In the days of [our] second month, they have a general hunt,
And proceed to keep up the exercises of war.
The boars of one year are for themselves;
Those of three years are for our prince.

In the fifth month, the locust moves its legs;
In the sixth month, the spinner sounds its wings.
In the seventh month, in the fields;
In the eighth month, under the eaves;
In the ninth month, about the doors;
In the tenth month, the cricket
Enters under our beds.
Chinks are filled up, and rats are smoked out;
The windows that face [the north] are stopped up;
And the doors are plastered.
‘Ah! our wives and children,
‘Changing the year requires this:
Enter here and dwell.’

In the sixth month they eat the sparrow-plums and grapes;
In the seventh, they cook the Kui and pulse,
In the eighth, they knock down the dates;
In the tenth, they reap the rice;
And make the spirits for the spring,
For the benefit of the bushy eyebrows.
In the seventh month, they eat the melons;
In the eighth, they cut down the bottle-gourds;
In the ninth, they gather the hemp-seed;
They gather the sowthistle and make firewood of the Fetid tree;
To feed our husbandmen.

In the ninth month, they prepare the vegetable gardens for their stacks,
And in the tenth they convey the sheaves to them;
The millets, both the early sown and the late,
With other grain, the hemp, the pulse, and the wheat.
‘O my husbandmen,
Our harvest is all collected.
Let us go to the town, and be at work on our houses.
In the day time collect the grass,
And at night twist it into ropes;
Then get up quickly on our roofs;
We shall have to recommence our sowing.’

In the days of [our] second month, they hew out the ice with harmonious blows;
And in those of [our] third month, they convey it to the ice-houses,
[Which they open] in those of the fourth, early in the morning,
Having offered in sacrifice a lamb with scallions.
In the ninth month, it is cold, with frost;
In the tenth month, they sweep clean their stack-sites.
The two bottles of spirits are enjoyed,
And they say, ‘Let us kill our lambs and sheep,
And go to the hall of our prince,
There raise the cup of rhinoceros horn,
And wish him long life, that he may live for ever.’

Waley

The piece which follows is not a calendar but a song made out of sayings about “works and days,” about the occupations belonging to different seasons of the year. There is no attempt to go through these in their actual sequence. “Seventh month,” “ninth month,” and so forth, means the seventh and ninth months of the traditional, popular calendar, which began its year in the spring; whereas “days of the First,” “days of the Second” means, according to the traditional explanation, the days of the first and second months in the Zhou calendar, which began its year round about Christmas, that is to say, at the time of the winter solstice. “The Fire ebbs” is explained as meaning “Scorpio is sinking below the horizon at the moment of its firstvisibility at dusk.” Did this happen in northern China round about September during the eighth and seventh centuries BC, the probable period of this song? That is a question which I must leave to astronomers.

The Seventh Month

In the seventh month the Fire ebbs;
In the ninth month I hand out the coats.
In the days of the First, sharp frosts;
In the days of the Second, keen winds.
Without coats, without serge,
How should they finish the year?
In the days of the Third they plough;
In the days of the Fourth out I step
With my wife and children,
Bringing hampers to the southern acre
Where the field-hands come to take good cheer.

In the seventh month the Fire ebbs;
In the ninth month I hand out the coats.
But when the spring days grow warm
And the oriole sings
The girls take their deep baskets
And follow the path under the wall
To gather the soft mulberry-leaves:
“The spring days are drawing out;
They gather the white aster in crowds.
A girl’s heart is sick and sad
Till with her lord she can go home.”

In the seventh month the Fire ebbs;
In the eighth month they pluck the rushes,
In the silk-worm month they gather the mulberry-leaves,
Take that chopper and bill
To lop the far boughs and high,
Pull toward them the tender leaves.
In the seventh month the shrike cries;
In the eighth month they twist thread,
The black thread and the yellow:
“With my red dye so bright
I make a robe for my lord.”

In the fourth month the milkwort is in spike,
In the fifth month the cicada cries.
In the eighth month the harvest is gathered,
In the tenth month the boughs fall.
In the days of the First we hunt the raccoon,
And take those foxes and wild-cats
To make furs for our Lord.
In the days of the Second is the great Meet;
Practice for deeds of war.
The boar one year old we keep;
The three-year-old we offer to our lord.

In the fifth month the locust moves its leg,
In the sixth month the grasshopper shakes its wing,
In the seventh month, out in the wilds;
In the eighth month, in the farm,
In the ninth month, at the door.
In the tenth month the cricket goes under my bed.
I stop up every hole to smoke out the rats,
Plugging the windows, burying the doors:
“Come, wife and children,
The change of the year is at hand.
Come and live in this house.”

In the sixth month we eat wild plums and cherries,
In the seventh month we boil mallows and beans.
In the eighth month we dry the dates,
In the tenth month we take the rice
To make with it the spring wine,
So that we may be granted long life.1
In the seventh month we eat melons,
In the eighth month we cut the gourds,
In the ninth month we take the seeding hemp,
We gather bitter herbs, we cut the ailanthus for firewood,
That our husbandmen may eat.

In the ninth month we make ready the stack-yards,
In the tenth month we bring in the harvest,
Millet for wine, millet for cooking, the early and the late,
Paddy and hemp, beans and wheat.
Come, my husbandmen,
My harvesting is over,
Go up and begin your work in the house,
In the morning gather thatch-reeds,
In the evening twist rope;
Go quickly on to the roofs.
Soon you will be beginning to sow your many grains.

In the days of the Second they cut the ice with tingling blows;
In the days of the Third they bring it into the cold shed.
In the days of the Fourth very early
They offer lambs and garlic.
In the ninth month are shrewd frosts;
In the tenth month they clear the stack-grounds.
With twin pitchers they hold the village feast,
Killing for it a young lamb.
Up they go into their lord’s hall,
Raise the drinking-cup of buffalo-horn:
“Hurray for our lord; may he live for ever and ever!”

1. Wine increases one’s de (inner power) and consequently increases the probability of one’s prayers being answered. That is why we drink when we wish people good luck. Mei-shou 眉壽. This phrase means “great old age”; we cannot etymologize it any further. It is written in many different ways (on inscriptions never with “eyebrow” till Han times), suggesting pronunciations men, wei, mei, mou.

155〈豳風・鴟鴞〉

Legge

O owl, O owl,
You have taken my young ones;
Do not [also] destroy my nest.
With love and with toil,
I nourished them. I am to be pitied.

Before the sky was dark with rain,
I gathered the roots of the mulberry tree,
And bound round and round my window and door.
Now ye people below,
Dare any of you despise my house?

With my claws I tore and held.
Through the rushes which I gathered,
And all the materials I collected,
My mouth was all sore;
I said to myself, ‘I have not yet got my house complete.’

My wings are all-injured;
My tail is all-broken;
My house is in a perilous condition;
It is tossed about in the wind and rain:
I can but cry out with this note of alarm.

Waley

Kite-Owl

Oh, kite-owl, kite-owl,
You have taken my young.
Do not destroy my house.
With such love, such toil
To rear those young ones I strove!

Before the weather grew damp with rain
I scratched away the bark of that mulberry-tree
And twined it into window and door.
“Now, you people down below,
If any of you dare affront me…”

My hands are all chafed
With plucking so much rush flower;
With gathering so much bast
My mouth is all sore.
And still I have not house or home!

My wings have lost their gloss,
My tail is all bedraggled.
My house is all to pieces,
Tossed and battered by wind and rain.
My only song, a cry of woe!

This poem is traditionally associated with the legend of King Cheng and his protector, the Duke of Zhou. It figures in the Metal-Clasped Box,1 a fairly late work which, however, incorporates a good deal of early legend. The song is said to have been given to King Cheng by his good uncle. Naturally the kite-owl, always classed as a “wicked bird” by the Chinese, symbolizes the wicked, rebellious uncles. The persecuted bird, who is the speaker in the poem, would seem most naturally to be the Duke of Zhou, and the young whom the bird had reared with such love and care would then be the boy king. But the allegory does not work out very closely, and it is possible that the song had a quite different origin, and was only later utilized as an ornament to the legend of King Cheng.

1. One of the books of the Shu jing.

156〈豳風・東山〉

Legge

We went to the hills of the east,
And long were we there without returning,
When we came from the east,
Down came the rain drizzlingly.
When we were in the east, and it was said we should return,
Our hearts were in the west and sad;
But there were they preparing our clothes for us,
As to serve no more in the ranks with the gags.
Creeping about were the caterpillars,
All over the mulberry grounds;
And quietly and solitarily did we pass the night,
Under our carriages.

We went to the hills of the east,
And long were we there without returning,
When we came from the east,
Down came the rain drizzlingly.
The fruit of the heavenly gourd,
Would be hanging about our eaves;
The sowbug would be in our chambers;
The spiders webs would be in our doors;
Our paddocks would be deer-fields;
The fitful light of the glow-worms would be all about.
These thoughts made us apprehensive,
And they occupied our breasts.

We went to the hills of the east,
And long were we there without returning,
On our way back from the east,
Down came the rain drizzlingly.
The cranes were crying on the ant-hills;
Our wives were sighing in their rooms;
They had sprinkled and swept, and stuffed up all the crevices.
Suddenly we arrived from the expedition,
And there were the bitter gourds hanging,
From the branches of the chestnut trees.
Since we had seen such a sight,
Three years were now elapsed.

We went to the hills of the east,
And long were we there without returning,
On our way back from the east,
Down came the rain drizzlingly.
The oriole is flying about,
Now here, now there, are its wings.
Those young ladies are going to be married,
With their bay and red horses, flecked with white.
Their mothers have tied their sashes;
Complete are their equipments.
The new matches are admirable;
How can the reunions of the old be expressed?

Waley

Eastern Hills

I went to the eastern hills;
Long was it till I came back.
Now I am home from the east;
How the drizzling rain pours!
I am back from the east,
But my heart is very sad.
You made for me that coat and gown
“Lest my soldier should go secret ways.”1
Restless the silkworm that writhes
When one puts it on the mulberry-bush;
Staunch I bore the lonely nights,
On the ground, under my cart.

I went to the eastern hills;
Long, long was it till I came back.
Now I am home from the east;
How the drizzling rain pours!
The fruit of the bryony
Has spread over the eaves of my house.
There are sowbugs in this room;
There were spiders’ webs on the door.
In the paddock were the marks of wild deer,
The light of the watchman2 glimmers.
These are not things to be feared,
But rather to rejoice in.3

I went to the eastern hills;
Long, long was it till I came back.
When I came from the east,
How the drizzling rain did pour!
A stork was crying on the ant-hill;
That means a wife sighing in her chamber.
“Sprinkle and sweep the house,
We are back from our campaign.”
There are the gourds piled up,
So many, on the firewood cut from the chestnut-tree.
Since I last saw themTill now, it is three years!

I went to the eastern hills;
Long, long was it till I came back.
When I came from the east,
How the drizzling rain did pour!
“The oriole is in flight,
Oh, the glint of its wings!
A girl is going to be married.
Bay and white, sorrel and white are her steeds.
Her mother has tied the strings of her girdle;4
All things proper have been done for her.”
This new marriage is very festive;
But the old marriage, what of that?

This song is a typical “elliptical ballad,” in which themes are juxtaposed without explanation. Thus “the oriole…” down to “All things proper have been done for her,” is a marriage-song theme, which lets us know that during the soldier’s absence his wife has assumed his death and married again.

1. Be untrue.
2. The “night-goer,” i.e., the glow-worm.
3. All these things can be interpreted as good omens. For example, lu, “deer,” suggests lu, “luck.” The spider is called “happy son” and other such names.
4. The idea that li 縭 means “scent-bag” is due, I think, to a series of misconceptions.

Karlgren

1. We marched on the Eastern Mountains, we went away and did not return home; now that we are coming from the East, the falling rain is darkening; when in the East we spoke of returning home, our hearts yearned for the West: »let us prepare those (civilian) skirts and robes, do not let us serve (as soldiers) and go in ranks and be gagged»; those crawling caterpillars, in great numbers they are in the mulberry grounds; staunchly we pass the night there each by himself, under the cart.*

* Spread out all over the ground, like those caterpillars which crawl about all over the place; a description of the scene of the marching army halting for the night.

2. We marched (etc. as in st. 1)… darkening; the fruits of the kuo-lo gourds reach the eaves; the sowbug is in the chamber, the spider is in the door; (full of) footprints is the deer's area; brilliant is the glow worm — it is not to be feared, it is to be loved.*

* It might look frightening, reminiscent of the will-o'-the-wisp, which is an emanation from the blood of killed men; but it is only a harmless creature, symbolic of peace and rest at home.

3. We marched (etc. as in st. 1)…darkening; the heron cries on the ant-hill; the wife sighs in the chamber; she sprinkles and sweeps, and the holes (in the walls) are stopped up; we march and arrive; the numerous gourds are bitter, they are (lying) in great numbers on the chestnut firewood; from the time that we (have not seen =) last saw this, until now, it is three years.

4. We marched (etc. as in st. 1)…darkening; The oriole goes flying, brilliant are its feathers; this young lady goes to her new home*, yellow-and-white-spotted and red-and-white-spotted are her horses; the mother ties her kerchief; the rules for her good conduct are both nine and ten; the new (matches) are very fine — what about the old ones?*

* The soldiers, when returning home, witness how a young girl goes as bride to her new home.
* What about ourselves and our wives, having been separated for three years?

157〈豳風・破斧〉

Legge

We broke our axes,
And we splintered our hatchets;
But the object of the duke of Zhou, in marching to the east,
Was to put the four States to rights.
His compassion for us people,
Is very great.

We broke our axes,
And we splintered our chisels;
But the object of the duke of Zhou, in marching to the east,
Was to reform the four States.
His compassion for us people,
Is very admirable.

We broke our axes,
And splintered our clubs.
But the object of the duke of Zhou, in marching to the east,
Was to save the alliance of the four States.
His compassion for us people,
Is very excellent.

Waley

Broken Axes

Broken were our axes
And chipped our hatchets.1
But since the Duke of Zhou came to the east
Throughout the kingdoms all is well.
He has shown compassion to us people,
He has greatly helped us.

Broken were our axes
And chipped our hoes.
But since the Duke of Zhou came to the east
The whole land has been changed.
He has shown compassion to us people,
He has greatly blessed us.

Broken were our axes
And chipped our chisels.
But since the Duke of Zhou came to the east
All the kingdoms are knit together.
He has shown compassion to us people,
He has been a great boon to us.

1. I.e., the whole state was in a bad way. The Duke of Zhou was sent to rule Lu, the southern part of Shandong.

Karlgren

1. We have broken our axes, we have splintered our hatchets*; but the prince of Chou marched to the East, the states of the four quarters*, them he corrected; he pities our men, he also greatly makes them (great:) thriving.*
* Our tools are ruined, we live in poverty.
* 四國 regularly means »the countries of the four quarters» in the odes, which renders the idea of the anc. comm. unlikely, acc. to which it would mean here the four states of Kuan, Ts'ai, Shang and Yen.
* 亦孔之將: 將 = ‘great,’ common in the odes. It would be tempting to translate: »he greatly supports them», since 將 also can have that meaning (see gl. 403); but the phrase 亦孔之將 recurs in ode 192, and there the sense of 'great' is unambiguous. Chu (basing himself on Cheng's paraphrase) considers 之 as a mere »particle» (he interprets: »His loving our men, is it not great,»), but that is grammatically unallowable. In the cliche 亦孔之X (very common in the Shï), 之 is always a direct object placed before its verb: »He greatly them enlarges» etc.

2. We have broken our axes, we have splintered our crooked chisels; but the prince of Chou marched to the East, the states of the four quarters, them he transformed; he pities our men, and he also greatly makes them felicitous.

3. We have broken our axes, we have splintered our chisels; but the prince of Chou marched to the East, the states of the four quarters, them he brought together (united); he pities our men, and he also greatly makes them happy.

158〈豳風・伐柯〉

Legge

In hewing [the wood for] an axe-handle, how do you proceed?
Without [another] axe it cannot be done.
In taking a wife, how do you proceed?
Without a go-between it cannot be done.

In hewing an axe-handle, in hewing an axe-handle,
The pattern is not far off.
I see the lady,
And forthwith the vessels are arranged in rows.

Waley

Axe-Handle

How does one cut an axe-handle?
Without an axe it is impossible.1
How does one take a wife?
Without a matchmaker she cannot be got.

Cut an axe-handle? Cut an axe-handle?
The pattern is not far to seek.
Here is a lady with whom I have had a love-meeting;
Here are my dishes2 all in a row.

1. I.e., someone who has already been married himself.
2. Of ritual offerings.

This song represents, I think, the popular view that marriage was a very simple matter, and a matchmaker by no means necessary.

159〈豳風・九罭〉

Legge

In the net with its nine bags,
Are rud and bream.
We see this prince,
With his grand-ducal robe and embroidered skirt.

The wild geese fly [only] about the islets.
The duke is returning; is it not to his proper place?
He was stopping with you [and me] but for a couple of nights.

The wild geese fly about the land.
The duke is returning, and will not come back here?
He was lodging with you [and me] but for a couple of nights.

Waley

Minnow-Net

“The fish in the minnow-net
Were rudd and bream.
The lover I am with
Has blazoned coat and broidered robe.”

“The wild-geese take wing; they make for the island.
The prince has gone off and we cannot find him.
He must be staying with you.

The wild-geese take wing; they make for the land.
The prince went off and does not come back.
He must be spending the night with you.”

“All because he has a broidered robe
Don’t take my prince away from me,
Don’t make my heart sad.”

160〈豳風・狼跋〉

Legge

The wolf springs forward on his dewlap,
Or trips back on his tail.
The duke was humble, and greatly admirable,
Self-composed in his red slippers.

The wolf springs forward on his dewlap,
Or trips back on his tail.
The duke was humble, and greatly admirable,
There is no flaw in his virtuous fame.

Waley

The Wolf

The wolf may catch in its own dewlap
Or trip up upon its tail.
But this nobleman, so tall and handsome,
In his red shoes stands sure.

The wolf may trip upon its tail
Or be caught in its dewlap.
But this nobleman, so tall and handsome—
In his fair fame is no flaw.

Karlgren

A young nobleman is likened to a fiercely springing wolf.

1. The wolf tramples on his dewlap, he trips on his tail;
the prince's grandson is great and beautiful; his red slippers are stud-adorned.

2.The wolf tramples on his dewlap, he trips on his tail;
the prince's grandson is great and beautiful; his reputation has no flaw.