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"In the Wilds There is a Dead Doe"


The following poem is from the Shih Ching. It is the the 23rd poem appearing in Mao's ordering of the Shih Ching, but is often numbered 63rd in English versions of that anthology.

In the wilds there is a dead doe;

With white rushes we cover her. 1

There was a lady longing for the spring;

A fair knight seduced her.

 

In the woods there is a clump of oaks,

And in the wilds a dead deer

With white rushes well bound;

There was a lady fair as jade. 2

 

"Heigh, not so hasty, not so rough;

Heigh, do not touch my handkerchief. 3

Take care, or the dog will bark."

 

1. If Chinese peasants would find a deer in the woods that has died, they would cover it with rushes as a sign of respect. --Arthur Waley, The Book of Songs: The Ancient Chinese Classic of Poetry. 60.

2. Jade was considered the most valuable and precious stone in China, somewhat akin to the way Europeans think of diamonds or gold. It was thought to have the power to elongate life, and at one Chinese burial site, the body of a nobleman was founded wearing armor composed entirely of small pieces of jade, a costume probably designed not only to illustrate his great wealth, but also to preserve his corpse from decay.

3. The garment translated as "handkerchief" was normally worn at the girdle, i.e., wrapped around the waist.

Questions:

1. What scene from the world of nature is being juxtaposed with an event in human courtship?

2. How is the lady like or unlike the dead doe wrapped in white rushes?

3. What is the lady concerned about? Why is she afraid the dog will bark? What is the knight like as a lover, given her words?

 

 

     

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Copyright Dr. L. Kip Wheeler 1998-2017. Permission is granted for non-profit, educational, and student reproduction. Last updated January 5, 2017. Contact: kwheeler@cn.edu Please e-mail corrections, suggestions, or comments to help me improve this site. Click here for credits, thanks, and additional copyright information.