When Confucius was traveling to the capital of Ch'u, he stopped for the night at a tavern at Ant Knoll. Next door a crowd of husbands and wives, menservants and maidservants had climbed up to the rooftop [to watch]. Tzu-lu said, "Who are all those people milling around?"Sycophant. Do you know this word? It means a servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people. Our world is filled with sycophants!
"They are the servants of a sage," said Confucius. "He has buried himself among the people, hidden himself among the fields. His reputation fades away but his determination knows no end. Though his mouth speaks, his mind has never spoken. Perhaps he finds himself at odds with the age and in his heart disdains to go along with it. He is one who has `drowned in the midst of dry land.' I would guess that it is I-liao from south of the Market."
"May I go next door and call him over?" asked Tzu-lu.
"Let it be!" said Confucius. "He knows that I am out to make a name for myself, and he knows I am on my way to the capital of Ch'u. He is sure to assume that I am trying to get the king of Ch'u to give me a position and will accordingly take me for a sycophant. A man like that is ashamed even to hear the words of a sycophant, much less appear in person before him! What makes you think he is still at home anyway?"
Tzu-lu went next door to have a look and found the house deserted.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
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