You cannot put a big load in a small bag,
nor can you with a short rope,
draw water from a deep well.
Have you not heard how a bird
from the sea was blown inshore
and landed outside the capital of Lu?
The prince ordered a solemn reception,
offered wine to the seabird
in the Sacred precinct,
called for musicians to play
the compositions of Shun,
slaughtered cattle to nourish it.
Dazed with symphonies,
the unhappy seabird died of despair.
How should you treat a bird?
As yourself or as a bird?
Ought not a bird to nest in deep woodland
or fly over meadow and marsh?
Ought it not to swim on river and pond,
feed on eels and fish,
fly in formation with other waterfowl,
and rest in the reeds?
Bad enough for a seabird to be surrounded by men
and frightened by their voices!
That was not enough!
They killed it with music!
Water is for fish, and air for man.
Natures differ, and needs with them.
Hence the wise men of old
did not lay down
one measure for all.