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

p. 250

Book V. The Decade of Hsiao Min


The Hsiao Min; narrative. A lamentation over the recklessness and incapacity of the king's plans and of his counselors.

1Oh! pitying Heaven grows black with frown,
  That darkens far this lower sphere,
For crooked schemes mislead the crown;
  Nor halts the king in his career!
All counsels good and wise he spurns;
To counsels bad he eager turns.
  I mark his ways with pain and fear.

2His creatures, impotent and vain,
  Now chime, now chafe, in rival mood.
The case deserves our saddest strain!
  If one proposes aught that's good,
Against it all are firmly bound;
If bad, then all will rally round.
  Where will it end?—I sadly brood. p. 251

3Our wearied oracles are dumb,
  And silence keep when we consult.
Our counselors still thronging come,
  With counsels barren of result.
Though full the court, none dares to do;
We plan the way we ne’er pursue,
  And halting, helpless still we halt.

4Ah me! the men who lead the state,
  Forsake the wisdom of the past.
Unruled by maxims wise and great,
  They veer with every fitful blast.
They cannot on themselves rely.
Builders, they ask each passer-by,
  And leave their work undone at last.

5Unsettled though the land we see,
  The many foolish, some are wise;
And scanty though the people be,
  Yet some can see, and some devise. p. 252
Some gravely think, and some have tact;
Yet borne upon the cataract,
  We sink in ruin, ne’er to rise.

6Who dares unarmed the tiger face?
  Who boatless dares to tempt the Ho?
E’en their small wits see such a case,
  But nothing greater do they know.
With fear and caution should we tread,
Like men above some torrent's bed,
  Or those upon thin ice who go.

Next: II. Hsiao Yüan