正氣歌The Song of the Righteous Spirit
I am held captive by the North, and sit now in an earthen room. The room is eight feet wide and twelve yards deep, its single door is low and small, its windows short and tight. It is dirty and dark. On a summer day like today, various vapors [or energies] (qi 氣) gather here. When the rains come in on all four sides, causing my bed and table to begin to float, this is the energy of water. When the muddy dirt dries halfway and steam bubbles ripple through it, this is the energy of earth. When the skies are clear and oppressively hot and the wind is blocked on all four sides, this is the energy of the sun. When cooking fires are lit under the shade of the eaves, making the long heat even more brutal, this is the energy of fire. When the grain in storage begins to decay, releasing an oppressive mustiness, this is the energy of rice. And when one is shoulder to shoulder with all sorts, rank, dirty, and oily, this is the energy of man. When the stench of privies, rotten corpses, and decaying rats emerge, this is the energy of fetor. These various malign energies overlap one on top of the other, and few are the men exposed to them who can remain unharmed. Moreover, my constitution is weak, yet I have lived amid them going on two years now, and thankfully have emerged unscathed. This is probably because I have something I have cultivated within me that makes it so. But how do I know what I am cultivating in myself? Mencius said, “I am good at cultivating my flood-like qi.” There are seven energies, and I have just one. One has held off seven. So why should I worry?! Especially since what I mean by “flood-like” is the “Righteous Spirit” of Heaven and Earth. I hereby compose “The Song of the Righteous Spirit.”
The Song of the Righteous Spirit
天地有正氣 Pervading Heaven and Earth is a righteous spirit—
雜然賦流形 Mixed and manifold, it assumes various forms.
下則爲河嶽 Below, it makes rivers and mountains;
上則爲日星 Above, it makes the sun and stars.
於人曰浩然 In the world of man, it is what Mencius called “flood-like,”
沛乎塞蒼冥 Surging forth to fill all that lies beneath the blue sky.
皇路當清夷 When the Great Way is tranquil and peaceful,
含和吐明庭 It inspires the bright court with harmony.
時窮節乃見 When events reach an impasse, integrity is tested;
一一垂丹青 Each instance is recorded down in the annals of history.
在齊太史簡 In Qi, it was the Grand Historian’s bamboo slips [that told of Cui Zhu’s assassination of Duke Zhuang];
在晉董狐筆 In Jin, it was the brush of Dong Hu [that attributed blame to Zhao Dun for Duke Ling’s murder].
在秦張良椎 In Qin, it was the hammer of Zhang Liang [with which he attacked Qin Shihuang’s carriage];
在漢蘇武節 In Han, it was the staff of Su Wu [that he carried as envoy].
爲嚴將軍頭 It was General Yan’s head [that refused to bow in submission],
爲嵇侍中血 It was Palace Attendant Ji Shao’s blood [that he spilled defending the Emperor].
爲張睢陽齒 It was the teeth of Zhang Xun at Suiyang [that he ground down while defending the city];
爲顏常山舌 It was the tongue of Yan Gaoqing at Changshan [that was cut out when he insulted An Lushan].
或爲遼東帽 Or, it appeared as the cap in Liaodong [that Guan Ning wore in his reclusion],
清操厲冰雪 Whose purity was more intense than ice and snow.
或爲出師表 Or, it appeared as the “Memorial to Dispatch the Troops” [by Zhuge Liang],
鬼神泣壯烈 Which made even ghosts and spirits cry solemnly.
或爲渡江楫 Or, it appeared as the oar that crossed the river [which Zu Ti beat, vowing to reclaim the north];
慷慨吞胡羯 With righteous determination to vanquish the barbarians.
或爲擊賊笏 Or, it appeared as the tablet that struck the bandit [Zhu Ci];
逆豎頭破裂 Whose traitorous head was split open.
是氣所旁薄 Each and every place that this spirit springs forth,
凜烈萬古存 Has stolid dignity that shall last for eternity.
當其貫日月 When it suffuses the sun and moon,
生死安足論 How can life and death merit discussion?
地維賴以立 The Terrestrial Perimeters depend upon it to stand;
天柱賴以尊 The Pillar of Heaven relies upon it to rise tall.
三綱實係命 The fate of the Three Bonds is tied to it;
道義爲之根 For Righteousness and the Way are its roots.
嗟予遘陽九 Alas! I have met with an ill-fated year;
隸也實不力 And am now one held captive, truly powerless.
楚囚纓其冠 Like the Chu prisoner who fastened his cap strings,
傳車送窮北 I was brought by carriage to the remote north.
鼎鑊甘如飴 To be boiled in a cauldron would be sweeter than candy;
求之不可得 I begged for this, but could not obtain it.
陰房閴鬼火 My gloomy cell fills with ghostly will-o’-the-wisp;
春院閟天黑 The spring courtyard is plunged into darkness.
牛驥同一皂 The ox and steed share the same trough;
雞棲鳳凰食 A phoenix is made to eat among chickens.
一朝濛霧露 One day I shall be overcome by the damp, I thought,
分作溝中瘠 My fate to be an emaciated corpse in some gully.
如此再寒暑 Two winters and springs have passed like this,
百沴自辟易 And a hundred malignancies have kept their distance.
嗟哉沮洳場 Oh this damp and soggy place,
爲我安樂國 Has now become my paradise!
豈有他繆巧 Surely it is not because of some clever trick
陰陽不能賊 That I am immune to the harm of the elements.
顧此耿耿在 I know it is the radiance that lies within,
仰視浮雲白 Pure as the white floating clouds that I gaze at overhead.
悠悠我心悲 Vast is the sorrow in my heart;
蒼天曷有極 Blue Heaven! When will it end?
哲人日已遠 The great wise men grow more distant each day;
典刑在夙昔 Yet their example lives on in the past.
風簷展書讀 Under the breezy eaves, I open a book and read;
古道照顏色 The ancient path illuminating my face.