Confucius said: “The first poem in the Book of Songs is delightful without being lewd and sad without being a lament.”
The first poem in the Book of Songs is commonly known in English as “The Osprey” or “The Ospreys” as this was the term adopted in the original translation by James Legge – though the bird in question might very well be a type of duck or water fowl.
Not that it really matters, for as Confucius points out, this is a delightful poem that evokes the joys and sorrows of young love. Here is a translation of it from John Thompson:
“Guan, guan,” trill the ospreys, upon the island in the creek.
Modest is the gentle lady, the gentleman thinks her fine to seek.
Uneven are the floating water plants, they flow by left and right.
Modest is the gentle beauty, he seeks her day and night.
He seeks but cannot get her, he thinks of her day and night.
Sad and anxious thoughts, twisting and turning in his plight.
Uneven are the floating water plants, they can be picked left and right.
Modest is the gentle beauty, qin and se zithers her friendship invite.
Uneven are the floating water plants, they can be gathered left and right.
Modest is the gentle beauty, with bells and drums we bring her delight.