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夏書 五子之歌 Xia Shu - Songs of the Five Sons

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Tai Kang occupied the throne like a personator of the dead. By idleness and dissipation he extinguished his virtue, till the black-haired people all wavered in their allegiance. He, however, pursued his pleasure and wanderings without any self-restraint. He went out to hunt beyond the Luo, and a hundred days elapsed without his returning. (On this) Yi, the prince of Qiong, taking advantage of the discontent of the people, resisted (his return) on (the south of) the He. The (king's) five brothers had attended their mother in following him, and were waiting for him on the north of the Luo; and (when they heard of Yi's movement), all full of dissatisfaction, they related the Cautions of the great Yu in the form of songs.


The first said,
'It was the lesson of our great ancestor:
The people should be cherished,
And not looked down upon.
The people are the root of a country;
The root firm, the country is tranquil.
When I look at all under heaven,
Of the simple men and simple women,
Any one may surpass me.
If the One man err repeatedly,
Should dissatisfaction be waited for till it appears?
Before it is seen, it should be guarded against.
In my dealing with the millions of the people,
I should feel as much anxiety as if I were driving six horses with rotten reins.
The ruler of men -
How should he be but reverent (of his duties)?'


The second said,
'It is in the Lessons:
When the palace is a wild of lust,
And the country is a wild for hunting;
When spirits are liked, and music is the delight;
When there are lofty roofs and carved walls;
The existence of any one of these things
Has never been but the prelude to ruin.'


The third said,
'There was the lord of Tao and Tang
Who possessed this region of Ji.
Now we have fallen from his ways,
And thrown into confusion his rules and laws;
The consequence is extinction and ruin.'


The fourth said,
'Brightly intelligent was our ancestor,
Sovereign of the myriad regions.
He had canons, he had patterns,
Which he transmitted to his posterity.
The standard stone and the equalizing quarter
Were in the royal treasury.
Wildly have we dropt the clue he gave us,
Overturning our temple, and extinguishing our sacrifices.'


The fifth said,
'Oh! whither shall we turn?
The thoughts in my breast make me sad
All the people are hostile to us;
On whom can we rely?
Anxieties crowd together in our hearts;
Thick as are our faces, they are covered with blushes.
We have not been careful of our virtue;
And though we repent, we cannot over-take the past.'

English translation: James Legge

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