God has reversed [His usual course of procedure], And the lower people are full of distress. The words which you utter are not right; The plans which you form are not far-reaching. As there are not sages, you think you have no guidance; You have no reality in your sincerity. [Thus] your plans do not reach far, And I therefore strongly admonish you.
Heaven is now sending down calamities; - Do not be so complacent. Heaven is now producing such movements; - Do not be so indifferent. If your words were harmonious, The people would become united. If your words were gentle and kind, The people would be settled.
Though my duties are different from yours, I am your fellow-servant. I come to advise with you, And you hear me with contemptuous indifference. My words are about the [present urgent] affairs; - Do not think them matter for laughter. The ancients had a saying: 'Consult the grass and firewood-gatherers. '
Heaven is now exercising oppression; - Do not in such a way make a mock of things. An old man, [I speak] with entire sincerity; But you, my juniors, are full of pride. It is not that my words are those of age, But you make a joke of what is sad. But the troubles will multiply like flames, Till they are beyond help or remedy.
Heaven is now displaying its anger; - Do not be either boastful or flattering,. Utterly departing from all propriety of demeanour, Till good men are reduced to personators of the dead. The people now sigh and groan, And we dare not examine [into the causes of their trouble]. The ruin and disorder are exhausting all their means of living, And we show no kindness to our multitudes.
Heaven enlightens the people, As the bamboo flute responds to the porcelain whistle; As two half maces form a whole one; As you take a thing, and bring it away in your hand, Bringing it away without any more ado. The enlightenment of the people is very easy. They have [now] many perversities; - Do not you set up your perversity [before them].
Good men are a fence; The multitudes of the people are a wall; Great States are screens; Great Families are buttresses; The cherishing of virtue secures repose; The circle of [the king's] Relatives is a fortified wall. We must not let the fortified wall get destroyed; We must not let him solitary be consumed with terrors.
Revere the anger of Heaven, And presume not to make sport or be idle. Revere the changing moods of Heaven, And presume not to drive about [at your pleasure]. Great Heaven is intelligent, And is with you in all your goings. Great Heaven is clear-seeing, And is with you in your wandering and indulgences.