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The Book of Poetry, tr. by James Legge, [1876], at

p. 358

Book II. Decade of Shêng Min


The Shêng Min; narrative. The legend of Hou-chi:—his conception; his birth; the perils of his infancy; his boyish habits of agriculture; his subsequent teaching of agriculture, and his founding of sacrifices, the honors of sacrifice paid to him by the house of Chou.

1’Tis to the famed Chiang Yüan we trace
The earliest of our favored race;
And how this happened, let my verse
The ancient story now rehearse.
With offering pure and sacrifice,
And look directed to the skies,
She prayed that Heaven would take away
The deep reproach that on her lay
Of childless womb; and then she trod
Upon a toe print made by God.
Straight, as she rested, she was moved,
And, pregnant now, retirement loved.
A son, Hou-chi, erelong appeared,
Whom with a mother's care she reared. p. 359

2Lo! when her carrying time was done,
Came like a lamb this first-born son.
No pains of labor suffered she,—
No hurt, no strain, no injury.
With omen of his future part
Did God thus cheer the mother's heart.
He had accepted in the skies
Her offering and her sacrifice;—
And thus it was she bore her son,
And of birth pangs had suffered none.

3Once in a narrow lane exposed,
The sheep and oxen round him closed,
And sheltered with their loving care.
Again the woodman found him, where
In a wide forest he was placed,
And bore him from the darksome waste.
On the cold ice exposed once more,
A bird, beneath the child and o’er,
Stretched its great wings. When it took flight,
Hou-chi began to wail in fright;
And loud and long his cries resound,
Filling the airy region round. p. 360

4When he could only creep, his face
With glance of wisdom beamed, and grace.
When he could feed himself, then fain
Was he to sow large beans and grain.
His beans with fine luxuriance grow;
His rows of rice rare beauty show;
His hemp and wheat adorn the field;
His gourds abundant produce yield.

5In husbandry this was his course:—
Wisely to aid kind nature's force.
He cleared the grass, and plowed the land,
Where yellow grain should waving stand.
The living germ with care was nurst,
Till from its sheath it nearly burst.
’Twas then as seed laid in the ground:—
It sprang, and soon in ear was found.
Strong grew the plant, and fine, and sweet,
Hung down anon, each grain complete.—
T‘ai’s state to rule for him was meet. p. 361

6There he gave out the beauteous grains:—
Millets,—the black, and what contains
Two kernels, and tall red, and white.
Largely they planted with delight
The double-kerneled, and the black,
Which, as they reap, they quickly stack.
The red and white their labor share,
But these, when reaped, they homeward bear,
And for the solemn rites prepare.

7And still those rites we here maintain.
Some in the mortar hull the grain;
Some take it thence; then sift it some;
The while fresh treaders constant come.
Washed in the dish with rattling sound,
It is distilled; the steam floats round.
We fix the day, and then with prayer
And fasting for the rites prepare.
Upon the burning fat we lay
The southernwood, and next essay,
With ram, the Spirit of the way
To please. Flesh boiled or roast
For representatives we boast.
We with these rites Hou-chi revere,
And welcome in the opening year. p. 362

8The stands of wood and earthenware
Grand store of various offerings bear.
Soon as their fragrant odors rise,
God, pleased, accepts the sacrifice.
Fragrant it is, and timely paid;—
’Twas Hou-chi its foundation laid.
Chou's lords and kings, down to this time,
Have duly kept the rite sublime.

Next: II. Hsing Wei