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02 February 2009

Canto XIII


Second one today - catching up on days missed last week while I'm snow-bound. And it's a seam of good stuff at the moment. I've read this one before, years ago back at college. I seem to remember that our tutors would sometimes spring a canto unseen on us for practical criticism. I think I would have been at a disadvantage with this one, for not knowing that Kung is Confucius, not that I knew much about Confucianism then, or now.

This canto relates a few incidents from his life and teachings. It's a very calm canto, presumably reflecting Confucian values. There's hardly any point commenting because it's quite transparent once you recognise the breaks between the incidents. But anyway:

Lesson 1: who gave the correct answer to Kung's question? "They have all answered correctly, That is to say, each in his nature."

Lesson 2: Kung criticises a lazy self-proclaimed sage: "Get up and do something useful."

Lesson 3: "a man of fifty who knows nothing is worthy of no respect"

Lesson 4 is about order:
And if a man have not order within him
He can not spread order about him;
And if a man have not order within him
His family will not act with due order;
And if the prince have not order within him
He can not put order in his dominions.

Lesson 5 is ambiguous:

And they said: If a man commit murder
Should his father protect him and hide him?
And Kung said:
He should hide him.

Lesson 6: Kung gives his female relatives (as wives) to men of character, rather than position.

Lesson 7: Kung remembers
A day when historians left blanks in their writings,
I mean for things they didn't know,
But that day seems to be passing.

And the canto ends with these reflections:
Without character you will
be unable to play on that instrument
Or to execute the music fit for the Odes.
The blossoms of the apricot
blow from the east to the west,
And I have tried to keep them from falling.

It's all rather lovely, isn't it? Prepare for a change in XIV.

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