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梅堯臣《蛙》“Frogs” by Mei Yaochen (1002-1060)

陂蛙怒目 In the pond frogs, eyes glaring, emerged.

科斗亦縱 Tadpoles also swim about at will.

自得君王揖, [They] would get a sovereign to pay his respects,[1]

能為鼓吹 And can make the sounds of woodwinds and drums.

越人嘗入饌, The Yue people once put them on dinner plates;

秦客不須 The Qin visitors need not be frightened.[2]

誰解縁明月, Who knows how they attach themselves to the bright moon?[3]

徒誇兩股[4] With nothing but the lightness of a good pair of legs.


* From Mei Yaochen 梅堯臣 (1002-1060), Wanling ji 宛陵集 (Wenyuange yingyin Siku quanshu文淵閣景印四庫全書 vol. 1099, Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1987), 48.3b: https://ctext.org/library.pl?if=en&file=2726&page=36.

[1] This alludes to a tale about Goujian 勾践 (ruling 496-465 BCE), the king of the Kingdom of Yue. In the hope of attracting fearless men to help him take his revenge on the Kingdom of Wu, he once paid his respects to a fierce-looking frog, thereby spreading the word that the king would appreciate any man with the same spirit; see Hanfeizi 韓非子: https://ctext.org/hanfeizi/nei-chu-shuo-shang (the tale appears three times in this chapter).

[2] Frogs have been part of the culinary traditions in many regions, but the custom of the Yue people is made particularly famous, probably because of the brief mention in the Baopuzi抱樸子: https://ctext.org/baopuzi/guan-li/zh. It seems that the Qin people used to put frogs on their plates too. The account of Dongfang shuo 東方朔 (160 BCE - 93 BCE) in the Hanshu 漢書 (https://ctext.org/han-shu/dong-fang-shuo-zhuan/zh), for example, is often cited in biji literature as evidence of the ancient custom of consuming frogs in Chang’an 長安, which was the centre of the Qin.

[3] This association is borrowed from the toad, for legend has it that a toad lives on the moon.

[4] Red characters rhyme.


"He wa yu xingzao" 荷蛙魚荇藻; album leaf by Aerbai 阿爾粺 (fl. 17-18th century) after Qiu Ying 仇英 (1494-1552)

Image credit: National Palace Museum, Taipei


Album leaf by Xiang Shengmo 項聖謨 (1597-1658)

Image credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

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