Page:A history of Chinese literature - Giles.djvu/29

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17
THE ODES


By and by you will die,
And another will enjoy them.

"You have courtyards and halls,
But they are not sprinkled and swept;
You have bells and drums,
But they are not struck.
By and by you will die,
And another will possess them.

"You have wine and food;
Why not play daily on your lute,
That you may enjoy yourself now
And lengthen your days?
By and by you will die,
And another will take your place."

The Odes are especially valuable for the insight they give us into the manners, and customs, and beliefs of the Chinese before the age of Confucius. How far back they extend it is quite impossible to say. An eclipse of the sun, "an event of evil omen," is mentioned in one of the Odes as a recent occurrence on a certain day which works out as the 29th August, b.c. 775; and this eclipse has been verified for that date. The following lines are from Legge's rendering of this Ode:—

"The sun and moon announce evil,
Not keeping to their proper paths.
All through the kingdom there is no proper government,
Because the good are not employed.
For the moon to be eclipsed
Is but an ordinary matter.
Now that the sun has been eclipsed,
How bad it is!"

The rainbow was regarded, not as a portent of evil, but as an improper combination of the dual forces of nature,—