|The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.|
Vol. XV: GreekRomanOriental
|A Stanza for a Tobacco-Pouch|
|By Yuan Mei (17161797)|
I have received your letter of congratulation, and am much obliged. At the end of the letter, however, you mention that you have a tobacco-pouch for me, which will be forwarded upon the receipt of a stanza. But such an exchange would seem to establish a curious precedent. If for a tobacco-pouch you expect in return a stanza, for a hat or a pair of boots you would demand a whole poem; while your brother might bestow a cloak or coat upon me, and believe himself entitled to an epic. At this rate, dear friend, your congratulations would become rather costly to me.
| Let me instruct you, on the other hand, that a man once gave a thousand yards of silk for a phrase, and another man a beautiful girl for a stanzawhich makes your tobacco-pouch look like a slight inducement, does it not?|| 2|
| Mencius forbids the taking advantage of people on the ground of ones rank or merits. How much worse, therefore, to do so by virtue of a mere tobacco-pouch! Elegant as a tobacco-pouch may be, it is only the work of a sempstress; but my poetry, poor as it may be, is the work of my brain. The exchange would evidently be complimentary to the sempstress, and the reverse to me.|| 3|
| Now, if you had taken needle and thread and made the pouch yourselfah, then what a difference! Then, indeed, a dozen stanzas would not have been too great a return. But it would hardly be proper to ask a famous warrior like yourself to lay down sword and shield for needle and thread. Nor, dear friend, am I likely to get the pouch at all, if you take offense at these little jokes of mine. What I advise you to do is, to bear with me patiently, send the tobacco-pouch, and wait for the stanza until it comes.|| 4|