Page:A history of Chinese literature - Giles.djvu/419
me. Not so if you yourself had cast away spear and sword, and grasping the needle and silk, had turned me out a tobacco-pouch of your own working. Then, had you asked me even for ten stanzas, I would freely have given them. But a great general knows his own strength as well as the enemy's, and it would hardly be proper for me to lure you from men's to women's work, and place on your head a ribboned cap. How then do you ven- ture to treat me as Ts'ao Ts ao [on his death-bed treated his concubines], by bestowing on me an insignificant tobacco-pouch ?
" Having nothing better to do, I have amused myself with these few lines at your expense. If you take them ill, of course I shall never get the pouch. But if you can mend your evil ways, then hurry up with the tobacco-pouch and trust to your luck for the verse."
A friend had sent Yuan Mei a letter with the very un- Chinese present of a crab and a duck. Two ducks and a crab would have been more conventional, or even two crabs and a duck. And by some mistake or other, the crab arrived by itself. Hence the following banter in reply :
"To convey a man to a crab is very pleasant for the man, but to convey a crab to a man is pleasant for his whole family. And I know that this night my two sons will often bend their arms like crabs' claws [i.e. in the form of the Chinese salute], wishing you an early success in life.
" In rhyme no duplicates [that is, don't rhyme again the same sound], and don't use two sentences where one will do [in composition]. Besides which, the fact that the duck has not yet turned up shows that you understand well how to ' do one thing at a time.' Not