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陸游《犬雞》“The dog and the chicken” by Lu You (1125-1210)

小犬一何警, How alert is the small dog,

日夜吠籬。 Barking day and night at the hedge.

老雞則不然, Far from that is the old chicken,

平旦方喔。 Crowing only at the breaking of dawn.

勤惰各其性, Diligent or lazy, each reveals its nature.

於我何厚。 To me how is one better than the other?

糠粞一施之, Crushed grains [I] feed them alike,

且復慰寂[1] As a measure of comfort too in this lonely spell.

* From Lu You, Jiannan shigao jiaozhu 劍南詩稿校注 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1985), annotated by Qian Zhonglian 錢仲聯, 72.4004.

[1] Red characters rhyme.

Detail of the album leaf "Yecan zuo jin" 野蠶作錦, showing a little dog and a cock in a silkworm farm; by Dai Quheng 戴衢亨 (1755-1811)

Picture credit: National Palace Museum, Taipei

My new little neighbour, undoing shoelaces a speciality!


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1 comment

1 comentario

05 dic 2022

Strange poem.

The first thing that comes to mind is labour.

In a hierarchal society we ought to be more like the dog.

Work hard all day to show our loyalty to our masters.

Even if the work is fundamentally pointless.

In 老子’s society whereby one lives like “鄰國相望,雞犬之聲相聞,民至老死不相往來。” We ought be more like the chicken. Work only when necessary to achieve the lifestyle of “甘其食,美其服,安其居,樂其俗。”

In the poem, it doesn’t seem to take sides.

But the fact that both parties get feed equally regardless of their total contribution of labour indicates a preference for the chicken. In a hierarchal society the chicken ought to be punished and looked down upon for its relatively measly contribution.

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