THE GREAT LEARNING
Newly rendered into the American Language by Ezra Pound
THE law of the Great Learning, or of practicable philosophy, lies in developing and making visible that luminous principle of reason which we have received from the sky, to renew mankind and to place its ultimate destination in perfection, the sovereign good.
2. One should first know the target toward which to aim, that is, one's ultimate destination; and then make up one's mind; when one's mind is made up one can then have the spirit calm and tranquil; and with the spirit calm and tranquil one can then enjoy that unalterable repose which nothing can trouble; and having succeeded in enjoying that unalterable repose which nothing can trouble, one may then meditate and form a judgment upon the essence of things; and having meditated and formed a judgment upon the essence of things one may then attain that desired state of perfection.
3. The creatures of nature have a cause and effects: human actions have a principle and consequences: to know the causes and the effects, the principles and consequences is to approach very near to the rational method whereby one attains perfection.
4. The ancient princes who wished to develop and make apparent, in their states, the luminous principle of reason which we receive from the sky, set themselves first to govern well their kingdoms; those who wished to govern their kingdoms well, began by keeping their own families in order; those who wished good order in their families, began by correcting themselves; those who wished to correct themselves tried first to attain rectitude of spirit; those who desired this rectitude of spirit, tried first to make their intentions pure and sincere; those who desired to render their intentions pure and sincere, attempted first to perfect their moral intelligence; the making as perfect as possible, that is the giving fullest scope to the moral intelligence (or the acquaintance with morals), consists in penetrating and getting to the bottom of the principles (motivations) of actions.
5. When one has penetrated and got to the bottom of the motives (or principles) of actions, the moral intelligence (or one's enlightenment in the matter of morals) arrives at its last state of perfection; and the moral intelligence having attained its last degree of perfection, one's intentions are rendered pure and sincere; one's intentions being simple and sincere, the soul is penetrated by probity and rightness; the soul suffused with probity and rectitude, the person is then corrected and ameliorated; the (person) manners being corrected and bettered, one's family is then well directed; the family being well directed, the kingdom is then well governed; the kingdom being well governed, the world enjoys peace and good harmony.
6. From the man in highest dignity, down to the humblest and most obscure, duty is equal (for all): to correct and better one's "person," that is the fundamental basis of all progress, of all moral development.
7. Things rooted in disorder and confusion will not, naturally, produce an orderly and ordered result. There is no stupider system than that of treating important matters with levity, and those of secondary importance with honour.
The preceding "book" forms but a single chapter, and contains those words of Confucius which his disciple Thseng-tseu, has annotated in the succeeding chapters: they in their turn having been collected by his disciples. (The bamboo tablets of the ancient copies had been tied together confusedly; for which reason Thseng-tseu set them in a fixed order and corrected the composition. His arrangement has been kept to this day. (Commentator’s note.)
The entire text of the opening chapter contains 46 characters.
The exposition is composed of various citations serving as commentary to the "book" or original text of Confucius, when it is not wholly narrative. Thus the principles presented in the text are successively developed and set in logical sequence. The blood circulates everywhere in the veins. From the beginning to the end, the grave and gay are employed with a deal of art and finesse. The reading of this book is agreeable and full of soothing. One should meditate on it for a long time and one will never succeed in exhausting the sense.
(The italics are mine. Despite the apparent simplicity of the text, the commentator is perfectly justified. E.P.)
[Confucius]. Ta Hio. The Great Learning. Newly rendered into the American Language by Ezra Pound. London: Stanley Nott, 1936. [The Ideogrammic Series]