“I Beg of You, Chung Tzu” is a poem translated from “The Book of Songs” by Arthur Waley. The poem consists of three stanzas each stanza holding eight lines. The poem was a part of the collection that received Confucius’s blessings because it kindled resentment against evil and stimulated awareness. This particular poem “I Beg of You, Chung Tzu”, has love and culture as the main themes although it also addresses political and nature topics. The poem is about a girl who addresses Chung Tzu, her boyfriend. The poet uses refrain as a figure of speech. Refrain occurs when a phrase, word, line or group of lines are repeated in a poem at regular intervals. Refrain helps establish a rhythm and emphasizes on the most important points and ideas. Arthur Waley uses refrain in every line of the poem. The lines that have been refrained are “I beg of you, Chung Tzu”, used in line 1 and repeated in line 9 and 17. “Chung Tzu I dearly love” used in line 6, repeated in line 14 and 22. “Indeed I am Afraid” used in line 8 is repeated in line 16 and 24.Some parts of the lines that have been repeated include ‘Do not climb’ used in line 2 but repeated in line 10 and 18. The words ‘Do not break’ are used in line 3 then repeated in line 11 and 19. ‘Not that I mind’ is used in line 4, 12 and 20, ‘But I am afraid’ repeated in line 5, 13 and 21 while ‘But of’ is repeated in line7, 15 and 23.
The poem talks about a girl who is in love with Chung Tzu but there are many obstacles to their being together. The girl is afraid of his family and society in addition to the many obstacles planted in her father’s homestead. The first stanza, she begs Chung Tzu not to climb their homestead and break the planted willows but expresses that her main fear is not the willows but what her father and mother would say about the relationship. The second stanza talks about the second structural obstacle as the wall and the mulberry trees, but while she begs Chung Tzu not to climb the wall or break the mulberry trees, her main fear is what his brothers would say. The third stanza the girl begs Chung Tzu not to climb the garden or break the planted garden to get to her but also stresses that her main worry is not the wood but people’s perception. The poem talks about conflict between a Chinese girl obligation and desire to welcome her boyfriend Chung Tzu and her obligation to her family and the society. The girl stresses in line 6, 14 and 22 that she dearly loves Chung Tzu. Despite the girl’s feelings and emotion, culture and society has built fear inside her. That is why the word ‘afraid’ is used in two lines per stanza, in line 5 and 8 in the first stanza then repeated in line 13, 15, 21 and 24.The poem leaves the reader unsure of the persona’s(the girl) decision.
According to Chinese history, Confucianism was not more of a religion but a social philosophy. It was particularly concerned with the nature of the relationships especially the morality. It emphasized on the need to obey and respect the people in authority such government officials and head of households while at the same time urging people in positions of authority to behave in righteous and humane way. This is the reason why the Chinese girl in this poem is afraid of what her father, mother, brother and other people would say about her relationship with Chung Tzu. Buddhism emphasizes that family and clan in Chinese culture is more important than the state. It also emphasizes on the past being important and thus the need to learn and respect it. Taoism on the other hand promotes vitality, health and harmonious living. Taoism promotes respect for water, fire, and wood, metal and earth as much as parts of the human body. It also believes that “people are compassionate by nature”. The poem portrays the three aspects of Chinese culture. The fears the girl has that her boyfriend could climb the homestead and breaks the willows, climb over the wall, break the mulberry trees, and climb into the garden and break the hard wood is because of Taoism belief that nature must be nurtured. The belief of Taoists to “let nature take its course” makes the girl fear that due to love Chung Tzu might do and is capable of climbing walls and breaking willows, mulberry trees and hardwood.
In conclusion, ‘I beg of you, Chung Tzu’ is a sensual poem with Daoism also known as Taoism and mysticism. Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism forms part of the fear the Chinese girl has on her boyfriend’s visit to her home. According to these beliefs, the head of households should be respected. The girl is therefore afraid of what his family; his father, mother and brother would perceive Chung Tzu’s visit. ‘De’, which was the major component of Daoism, emphasized on morality, virtue, and integrity. The girl in the poem is confused whether inviting her lover to her father’s homestead is virtuous, moral or it compromises her integrity. The poet leaves a mystery behind, as the conflict is unresolved since the reader does not get to know the persona’s decision. The poet uses refrain and repetition in the whole poem making sure that every line or some words in a line are repeated to draw emphasis on the personas crisis.
Horwitz, Tem. Chuang Tzu. St Cloud, MN: Cloud Hands Press, 2006. 6.