How Confucius died

Confucius rose early (one day), and with his hands behind him, and trailing his staff, moved slowly about near the door, singing–

The great mountain must crumble;
The strong beam must break;
The wise man must wither away like a plant.’

Having thus sung, he entered and sat down opposite the door. Zǐ gòng (子贡) had heard him, and said, —

‘If the great mountain crumble, to what shall I look up?
If the strong beam break, (on what shall I lean)?
If the wise man wither like a plant, whom, shall I imitate?
The Master, I am afraid, is going to be ill.’

He then hastened into the house. The Master said, Sì (Zǐ gòng’s designation, 赐), what makes you so late? Under the sovereigns of Xià (夏), the body was dressed and coffined at the top of the steps on the east, so that it was where the deceased used to go up (as master of the house). The people of Yīn (殷) performed the same ceremony between the two pillars, so that the steps for the host were on one side of the corpse, and those for the guest on the other. The people of Zhōu(周) perform it at the top of the western steps, treating the deceased as if he were a guest. I am a man (descended from the house) of Yīn, and last night I dreamt that I was sitting with the offerings to the dead by my side between the two pillars. Intelligent kings do not arise; and what one under heaven’s able to take me as his Master? I apprehend I am about to die.’ With this he took to his bed, was ill for seven days, and died.

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