Classic of Poetry

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The Classic of Poetry, also Shijing or Shih-ching, translated variously as the Book of Songs, Book of Odes, or simply known as the Odes or Poetry is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, comprising 305 works dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BC. It is one of the "Five Classics" traditionally said to have been compiled by Confucius, and has been studied and memorized by scholars in China and neighboring countries over two millennia. Since the Qing dynasty, its rhyme patterns have also been analysed in the study of Old Chinese phonology.


Odes, I., 1, i.[edit]

  • 關關雎鳩、在河之洲。
    • Guan-guan go the ospreys,
      On the islet in the river.
      The modest, retiring, virtuous, young lady:
      For our prince a good mate she.
      • Translated by James Legge
    • Waterfowl their mates are calling,
      On the islets in the stream.
      Chaste and modest maid! fit partner,
      For our lord (thyself we deem).
      • Translated by William Jennings

Odes, I., 3, i.[edit]

  • 汎彼柏舟、亦汎其流。
    • Tossed is that cypress boat,
      Wave-tossed it floats.
      My heart is in turmoil, I cannot sleep.

      But secret is my grief.
      • trans. Arthur Waley
  • 微我無酒、以敖以遊。
    • Nor wine, nor sport
      Can ease my pain.
      • trans. Arthur Waley
  • 我心匪鑒、不可以茹。
    • My heart is not a mirror,
      To reflect what others will.
      • trans. Arthur Waley
  • 亦有兄弟、不可以據。
    • I, indeed, have brothers,
      I cannot depend on them,
      I meet with their anger.
      • trans. James Legge
  • 我心匪石、不可轉也。
    • My heart is not a stone,
      To be rolled aside;
      My heart is not a mat,
      To be folded away.
      • trans. Arthur Waley
  • 憂心悄悄、慍于群小。
    • My heart is dull with dread;
      I am girt around
      With the scorn of little men.
      Much torment have I seen,
      Much insolence endured,
      Have sunk in idle thought
      And, waking, beat my breast.
      • trans. Arthur Waley
  • 日居月諸、胡迭而微。
    • O sun, ah, moon,
      Why are you changed and dim?
      Sorrow clings to me
      Like an unwashed dress.
      • trans. Arthur Waley
  • 靜言思之、不能奮飛。
    • Silently I think of my case,
      But I cannot spread my wings and fly away.
      • trans. James Legge

Odes, I., 5, vii.[edit]

"The one who is longing strongly is daunted by no difficulties", Bernhard Karlgren, The Book of Odes (1950), p. 43
  • 誰謂河廣、一葦杭之。


    • Who says that the [river] Ho is wide?
      With (a bundle of) reeds I can cross it.
      Who says that Sung is distant?
      On tiptoe I can see it.

      Who says that the Ho is wide?
      It will not admit a little boat.
      Who says that Sung is distant?
      It would not take a whole morning to reach it.

      • trans. James Legge

Odes, I., 10, ii.[edit]

  • 子有酒食、何不日鼓瑟。
    • You have wine and food, why do you forget
      Sometimes to play your lute,
      Sometimes to laugh and sing,
      Sometimes to steal new playtime from the night?
      Shall it be so till you are dead
      And others have your house?
      • trans. Arthur Waley

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