15 Lesson 14 – 魏節乳母

魏節乳母  (《列女傳》)

Wèi Jié rǔmǔ   (liè nǚ zhuàn )

魏節乳母者,魏公子之乳母也。秦攻魏破之,殺魏王瑕,誅諸公子,而一公子不得,令魏國曰:“得公子者,賜金千鎰,匿之者罪至夷。” 節乳母與公子俱逃,魏之故臣見乳母而識之曰:“乳母無恙乎?” 乳母曰:“嗟乎,吾奈公子何!” 故臣 曰:“今公子安在? 吾聞秦令曰:有能得公子者賜金千鎰,匿之者罪至夷。乳母倘言之,則可以得千金,知而不言,則昆弟無類矣。” 乳母曰:“吁!吾不 知公子之處。” 故臣曰:“我聞公子與乳母俱逃。” 母曰:“吾雖知之,亦終不可以言。” 故臣曰:“今魏國已破亡,族已滅,子匿之尚誰為乎?” 母吁而言曰: “夫見利而反上者, 逆也 ; 畏死而棄義者,亂也。今持逆亂而以求利,吾不為也。且夫為人養子者,務生之,非為殺之也。豈可以賞而畏誅之故,廢正義而行逆節哉! 妾不能生而令公子禽也。” 遂抱公子逃於深澤之中。故臣以告秦軍。秦軍追見,爭射之。乳母以身為公子蔽,矢著身者數十,與公子俱死。秦王聞之,貴其守忠死義,乃以卿禮葬之,祠以太牢。寵其兄為五大夫,賜金百鎰。


魏节乳母者,魏公子之乳母也。秦攻魏破之,杀魏王瑕,诛诸公子,而一公子不得,令魏国曰:“得公子者,赐金千镒,匿之者罪至夷。” 节乳母与公子俱逃,魏之故臣见乳母而识之曰:“乳母无恙乎?”  乳母曰:“嗟乎,吾柰公子何!” 故臣 曰:“今公子安在? 吾闻秦令曰:有能得公子者赐金千镒,匿之者罪至夷。乳母倘言之,则可以得千金,知而不言,则昆弟无类矣。” 乳母曰:“吁!吾不知公子之处。” 故臣曰:“我闻公子与乳母俱逃。”母曰:“吾虽知之,亦终不可以言。” 故臣曰:“今魏国已破亡,族已灭,子匿之尚谁为乎?”  母吁而言曰:“夫见利而反上者,逆也 ; 畏死而弃义者,乱也。今持逆乱而以求利,吾不为也。且夫为人养子者,务生之,非为杀之也。岂可以赏而畏诛之故,废正义而行逆节哉! 妾不能生而令公子禽也。”  遂抱公子逃于深泽之中。故臣以告秦军。秦军追见,争射之。乳母以身为公子蔽,矢着身者数十,与公子俱死。秦王闻之,贵其守忠死义,乃以卿礼葬之,祠以太牢。宠其兄为五大夫,赐金百镒。

 

Lesson 14 vocabulary

Wèi (name of a state)
節(节) jié virtuous
乳母 rǔ mǔ wet nurse
公子 gōng zǐ prince
Qín (name of a state)
to defeat
魏王瑕 Wèi Wáng Xiá King Xia of Wei (r. BCE 227-225)
zhū to execute
zhū [a noun prefix indicating plural]
qiān thousand
(measure of weight for gold, 24 ounces)
to conceal, to hide
to eliminate; to put to death along with relatives
táo to flee
故臣 gù chén former minister
shí to recognize
yàng ill health
無恙乎 wú yang hū How are you?
嗟乎 jiē hū alas!
柰…何 nài… hé What to do about…
tǎng if
類(类) lèi kind, species
無類 wú lèi without kin
alas! to sigh
chù place, whereabouts
suī even if
雖…亦 suī yì even if…still
already
zhōng [to the] end
終不 zhōng bù never
可以 ké yǐ possible [with active verb], can
wáng to be destroyed, to destroy
clan
miè to wipe out
shàng still
shuí who?
this, that, these, those  [to introduce argument] [c.f. fū]
fǎn to turn against
shàng one’s superiors
child, son
treasonous, rebellious, contrary
棄(弃) to discard, to abandon
luàn chaos, disorder
by means of
且夫 qiě fú moreover
yǎng to raise, to nourish
shēng to be alive, to keep alive, to live
wèi for the purpose of, for, on behalf of
benefit, advantage
賞(赏) shǎng reward, approval
以…之故 yǐ…zhī gù because of, for the sake of
廢 (废) fèi to neglect
zhèng upright, proper
xíng to practice
逆節 nì jié dishonorable conduct, perverse conduct
qiè (concubine) I (humble, of women
qín to capture
bào to hold in arms
shēn deep
with
爭(争) zhēng to compete
shè to shoot at
蔽(芘) cover
shǐ arrow
zhuó to hit; to pierce
shí ten
貴(贵) guì respected, honored; to respect, to honor, to consider something or someone honorable
shǒu to maintain
qīng minister
禮(礼) rites
zàng to bury
太牢 tài láo Great Offering (pig, sheep and ox)
寵(宠) chǒng to favor
xiōng elder brother
五大夫 wǔ dà fū (rank)

《列女傳》         Liè nǚ  zhuàn

The 列女傳 (Biographies of Noted Women) is a Han Dynasty collection of biographies of famous women written in simple classical for the moral instruction of young girls.  Often girls of wealthy families were allowed to read only insofar as they could read works such as this.  Needless to say, the paragons of virtue upheld in these texts are not to modern taste.

Commentary on lesson 14:

1.1:      諸 is a noun prefix indicating a plural; sometimes it has the sense of “the various” as here,         “the various princes.”

1.2:      柰何 is an emotional phrase that generally is translated as “what to do about…”  It generally indicates a quandary, a sense of hopelessness, or an implied failure (i.e., “there’s noting that can be done about….”)  You will have to fiddle a bit usually to come up with a decent translation.

1.3:      Earlier we noted that 可 as an auxiliary verb turned its verb into the passive and was      often the equivalent of the “-able” suffix in English.  可以 is active in meaning and is  equivalent to the English auxiliary verbs “may” or “can”.  It can be contrasted with 能,  可以 means that the circumstances are such that a certain action is possible, 能 means that a person is physically capable of performing an action.  For example, you may be able to (能) shoot a deer from a thousand paces; but if there are no deer in your forest,  you can’t (不可以).   可以 is somewhat different from its modern usage in that the  modern usage usually indicates permission – (i.e., if the gaming laws permit, you my 可以 shoot deer).

1.4:      雖…亦… is a sentence pattern meaning “Even if…indeed…”  亦 usually means “also”, but is often a simple adverb of emphasis.

1.5:      Occasionally classical Chinese inverts two characters for no good reason.  Fortunately, the characters almost always invert under the same circumstances.  One is in the case of question words. Here, 為誰 “for whose benefit” in inverted to 誰為.  Another is the standard question 何以 “why”, “how” which, technically speaking, ought to be 以何, “for  the purpose of what,” “by means of what”.  In sentences with negatives you will also occasionally see the direct object come before the verb – e.g., 不之殺 “I didn’t kill him.”

1.6:      Verbs of telling take two objects: the thing told and the person to whom it was told.  In such cases, the thing told is often placed before the verb as an object of 以 – literally, “I told him by means of this.”  Naturally, if the thing told is already know, it will be omitted leaving only the 以.  Here we have a very typical phrase 以告秦軍 “he told it to the Qin army.”

1.7:      死義 is a typical abbreviated way of saying “die for rightness”.  A similar abbreviation occurs right after, 卿禮 means “rites (or ceremonies) befitting a person of the rank of minister.”  Similar verb+object compounds are 死節、死義、and 守忠.  The classical reader must be ready to interpret such abbreviated turns of phrase.

 

Grammar Note  13

More about 以 yǐ.  In lesson 4 we saw以 yǐ as a conjunction “in order to” in the format X 以 Y, X in order to Y:

殺 身 以 成 名 kill the self in order to achieve fame
shā shēn yǐ chéng míng

We have also seen以 yǐ as a coverb “with, using, by means of, because of.” Probably most often the phrase introduced by this kind of 以 yǐ comes before the main verb, in what is called the “adjunct” position:

COVERB     MAIN VERB
   以     故
    yǐ      gù dōng
because of    [this] reason  eastward moved

There are also occasions when 以 yǐ appears after the main verb and the object:

MAIN VERB COVERB
   報       之  福
tiān     bào        zhī  fú
heaven [will] reward       [him] with good fortune

Although the coverb以 yǐ is basically transitive, if its object is 之zhī, then 之zhī is generally dropped.  In lesson 14 we see two examples of this.  In both cases the coverb phrase precedes the main verb:

1  而 [之]
ér  yǐ zhī  qiú
and by means of [them] seek…
2 [之]
zhī gào
took [it] and reported [it to…]

As we have noted, since 之 zhī  usually drops out of such constructions the combination 以之     yǐ  zhī  is rarely seen.  Although understanding this particular kind of ellipsis of 之zhī  is important if we are to read Classical Chinese texts correctly, Shadick’s grammar apparently makes no mention of it.  Shadick’s work is often useful, but has Harbsmeier reminds us, in the present state of the art there can be no thoroughly reliable work on Classical Chinese grammar. As it happens, Y. R. Chao’s book (A Grammar of Spoken Chinese, Berkeley, 1968), which contains much on Classical Chinese as well as Mandarin, is more helpful here. He shows (pp. 333-335) that there are five Classical Chinese coverbs which often drop their objects. Besides 以yǐ, these are, 為 wèi  因 yīn 從 cóng and  將 jiāng.

Other points about lesson 14:

吾柰公子何? wú nài gōngzǐ hé? Here 柰nài means “to do something about something”.  It commonly occurs, as here, in rhetorical questions which imply and answer that nothing very effective can be done.

 

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Introduction to Classical Chinese by Patrick Hanan; David Lattimore; Judith Zeitlin; Margaret Baptist Wan; Anthony George; Xiaofei Tian; Regina Llamas; Hu Hsiao-chen; Liu Lening; Paul Rouzer; Shang Wei; Andrew Schonebaum; and Kong Mei is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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