Sam Hamill

Five from Tao Te Ching

With the greatest leader above them,
people barely know one exists.

The second-best are praised and revered.
The next, merely respected.
Then the despised.

When trust is unattainable,
there is no sufficiency.

Trust the cautious sage
whose words are most carefully chosen.

With all we accomplish, we can say
only that we did what comes naturally.

When the great Tao is forgotten,
doctrines of justice and mercy prevail.

When wit and cleverness prevail,
hypocrites rule.

When kinship falls into discord,
piety and rites of devotion arise.

When the nation is in crises,
all the patriotic ministers appear.

Eliminate holiness, renounce cleverness,
and everybody benefits a hundred-fold.

Abandon benevolence and shun the righteous,
and people recover true devotion.

Banish artfulness and profit,
and thieves disappear.

But even these three lessons
are not quite sufficient.

Learn manifest simplicity.
Grasp the uncarved wood.
Cast aside self-interest and desire dissipates.

Between Yes and No
there is how much difference?
Good and evil can be compared.

What others fear
becomes our wilderness of fear.
Oh, it is endless.

People joyfully feast, laughing
as if climbing the springtime tower
to view the terrace.

I alone remain unmoved,
a child not taught to smile,
exhausted, forlorn,
a child without a home.

Everyone has plenty.
I alone am left wanting.
I live in confusion like a fool.

Even ordinary people can be brilliant.
I alone grope in the dark.
The insights of people escape me
as I drift placidly along.

Oh, they know ocean depths
and sea winds aimlessly blowing.
They believe they all have purpose.

The old Taoist alone, the stubborn rustic,
knows Tao itself makes him different.
He's nourished at the Great Mother's breast.

All-embracing power
is manifest in the Tao.

Tao embodied in action
is illusive, a shadow.

And yet within it, illusive,
are forms and signs,

deep with its center, very deep,
an essence, a truth.

Since earliest times, its name has been known
as the source of all origins.

How do I know the source of all things?
It's so because of this.

© 2005 Electronic Poetry Review