This is an obscure sentence, and none of the commentators succeed in squeezing very good sense out of it. The difficulty lies chiefly in the words 取人, which have been taken in every possible way. I follow Li Ch‘üan, who appears to offer the simplest explanation: 惟得人者勝也 “Only the side that gets more men will win.” Ts‘ao Kung’s note, concise as usual to the verge of incomprehensibility, is 厮養足也. Fortunately we have Chang Yü to expound its meaning to us in language which is lucidity itself: 兵力既均又未見便雖未足剛進足以取人於厮養之中以并兵合力察敵而取勝不必假他兵以助己 “When the numbers are even, and no favourable opening presents itself, although we may not be strong enough to deliver a sustained attack, we can find additional recruits amongst our sutlers and camp-followers, and then, concentrating our forces and keeping a close watch on the enemy, contrive to snatch the victory. But we must avoid borrowing foreign soldiers to help us.” He then quotes from Wei Liao Tzŭ, ch. 3: 助卒名爲十萬其實不過數萬耳 “The nominal strength of mercenary troops may be 100,000, but their real value will be not more than half that figure.” According to this interpretation, 取人 means “to get recruits,” not from outside, but from the tag-rag and bobtail which follows in the wake of a large army. This does not sound a very soldierly suggestion, and I feel convinced that it is not what Sun Tzŭ meant. Chia Lin, on the other hand, takes the words in a different sense altogether, namely “to conquer the enemy” [cf. 1. § 20]. But in that case they could hardly be followed by 而已. Better than this would be the rendering “to make isolated captures,” as opposed to 武進 “a general attack.”
41. He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.
The force of 夫惟 is not easy to appreciate. Ch‘én Hao says 殊無遠慮但輕敵者, thus referring 惟 to the second verb. He continues, quoting from the Tso Chuan: 蜂蠆有毒而况國乎則小敵亦不可輕 “If bees and scorpions carry poison, how much more will a hostile state! [僖公, XXII. 3.] Even a puny opponent, then, should not be treated with contempt.”
42. If soldiers are punished before they have grown