to speak for themselves, and has no more reason to be surprised by references to vice in some of them than by the language of virtue in many others. Confucius said, indeed, in his own enigmatical way, that the single sentence, 'Thought without depravity,' covered the whole 300 pieces; and it may very well be allowed that they were collected and preserved for the promotion of good government and virtuous manners. The merit attaching to them is that they give us faithful pictures of what was good and what was bad in the political state of the country, and in the social, moral, and religious habits of the people.
The pieces were of course made by individuals who possessed the gift, or thought that they possessed the gift, of poetical composition.The writers of the odes. Who they were we could tell only on the authority of the pieces themselves, or of credible historical accounts, contemporaneous with them or nearly so. It is not worth our while to question the opinion of the Chinese critics who attribute very many of them to the duke of Kâu, to whom we owe so much of the fifth Part of the Shû. There is, however, independent testimony only to his composition of a single ode,—the second of the fifteenth Book in Part I . Some of the other pieces in that Part, of which the historical interpretation may be considered as sufficiently fixed, are written in the first person; but the author may be personating his subject.
In Part II, the seventh ode of decade 2 was made by a, Kiâ-fû, a noble of the royal court, but we know nothing more about him; the sixth of decade 6, by a eunuch styled Măng-𝔷ze; and the sixth of decade 7, from a concurrence of external testimonies, should be ascribed to duke Wû of Wei, B.C. 812 to 758.In the third decade of Part III, the second piece was composed by the same duke Wû; the third by an earl of Zui in the royal domain; the fourth must have been made by one of king, Hsüan's ministers, to express the king's
- Analects, II, ii.
- See the Shû, V, vi, par. 2.