Below are a few translations of Chapter 58 of the immortal Tao Te Ching.[1] ...


* * *

Translated by Thomas Cleary

When the government is unobtrusive,
the people are pure.
When the government is invasive,
the people are wanting.
Calamity is what fortune depends upon;
fortune is what calamity subdues.
Who knows how it will all end?
Is there no right or wrong?
The orthodox also becomes unorthodox,
the good also becomes ill;
people's confusion
is indeed long-standing.
Therefore sages are upright without causing injury,
honest without hurting,
direct but not tactless,
illumined but not flashy.

* * *

Translated by Stephen Mitchell

If a country is governed with tolerance,
the people are comfortable and honest.
If a country is governed with repression,
the people are depressed and crafty.

When the will to power is in charge,
the higher the ideals, the lower the results.
Try to make people happy,
and you lay the groundwork for misery.
Try to make people moral,
and you lay the groundwork for vice.

Thus the Master is content
to serve as an example
and not to impose her will.
She is pointed, but doesn't pierce.
Straightforward, but supple.
Radiant, but easy on the eyes.

* * *

Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English

When the country is ruled with a light hand
The people are simple.
When the country is ruled with severity,
The people are cunning.

Happiness is rooted in misery.
Misery lurks beneath happiness.
Who knows what the future holds?
There is no honesty.
Honesty becomes dishonest.
Goodness becomes witchcraft.
Man's bewitchment lasts for a long time.

Therefore the sage is sharp but not cutting,
Pointed but not piercing,
Straightforward but not unrestrained,
Brilliant but not blinding.

* * *

Translated by Ron Hogan

When a nation is ruled with a light touch,
people lead simple lives.
When a government is harsh and demanding,
people will spend their time trying to outsmart it.
Happiness is rooted in misery,
and misery lurks beneath all joy.
Who knows what could happen tomorrow?
Everything is relative;
what's considered proper today may become improper.
Correct appearances
may hide dishonesty and sinfulness.
No wonder so many people get confused.
The Masters have sharp minds, not sharp tongues.
They are austere, but never judgmental.
They are straightforward, but not provocative.
They are brilliant, but not flashy.

* * *

Translated by Jonathan Star

When the rule knows his own heart
      the people are simple and pure
When he meddles with their lives
     they become restless and disturbed

Bad fortune, yes --
     it rests upon good fortune
Good fortune, yes --
     it hides within bad fortune
Oh the things that Heaven sends --
     Who can know their final aim?
     Who can tell of their endless ways?
Today the righteous turn to trickery
Tomorrow the good turns to darkness
Oh what delusion abounds
     and every day it grows worse!

But the Sage is here upon the Earth
     to gently guide us back
He cuts but does not harm
He straightens but does not disrupt
He illumines but does not dazzle

* * *

By J.H. McDonald

If a government is unobtrusive,
the people become whole.
If a government is repressive,
the people become treacherous.

Good fortune has its roots in disaster,
and disaster lurks with good fortune.
Who knows why these things happen,
or when this cycle will end?
Good things seem to change into bad,
and bad things often turn out for good.
These things have always been hard to comprehend.

Thus the Master makes things change without interfering.
She is probing yet causes no harm.
Straightforward, yet does not impose her will.
Radiant, and easy on the eye.

* * *

Translated by Ko Yeun (Aleister Crowley)

The government that exerciseth the least care serveth the people best;
that which meddleth with everybody's business worketh all manner of harm.
Sorrow and joy are bedfellows;
who can divine the final result of either?

Shall we avoid restriction?
Yea; restriction distorteth nature, so that even what seemeth good in it is evil.
For how long have men suffered from misunderstanding of this.

The wise man is foursquare, and avoideth aggression;
his corners do not injure others.
He moveth in a straight line and turneth not aside therefrom;
he is brilliant but doth not blind with his brightness.

* * *

Translated by Stephen Addiss & Stanley Lombardo

If government is muted and muffled
People are cool and refreshed.
If government investigates and intrudes,
People are worn down and hopeless.
Bad fortune rests upon good fortune.
Good luck hides within bad luck.
Who knows how it will end?
If there is no principle
Principle reverts to disorder,
Good reverts to calamity,
People's confusion hardens and lingers on.
Therefore the Sage squares without cutting,
Corners without dividing,
Straightens without extending,
Shines without dazzling.

* * *

Translated by R.B. Blakney

Listlessly govern:
Happy your people;
Govern exactingly:
Restless your people.

"Bad fortune will
Promote the good;
Good fortune, too,
Gives rise to the bad."

But who can know to what that leads?
For it is wrong and would assign
To right the strangest derivations
And would mean that goodness
Is produced by magic means!
Has man thus been so long astray?

Accordingly, the Wise Man
Is square but not sharp,
Honest but not malign,
Straight but not severe,
Bright but not dazzling.

* * *

Translated by Frederick Balfour

When the policy of administration is [apparently] inert,
the people are liberal-minded and frank.
When such policy is based on espionage
the people are resentful and dissatisfied.

Happiness is the correlate of calamity;
calamity is ever hidden under happiness.
Who can tell the boundary-line which divides one from the other?

If [the prince] be devoid of rectitude,
the rectitude [of his people] will be turned into craft,
and their goodness be turned into depravity.

When the people are under delusion,
the days [of their prince] cannot last long.

Therefore the Sage is correct in his conduct,
and never abandons [his correctness];
he is incorruptible, and never inflicts injury [by a bad example];
he is straightforward, and never acts at random;
he shines [with internal radiance], but dazzles no one.

* * *

Translated by James Legge

The government that seems the most unwise,
Oft goodness to the people best supplies;
That which is meddling, touching everything,
Will work but ill, and disappointment bring.

Misery! -- happiness is to be found by its side!
Happiness!--misery lurks beneath it!
Who knows what either will come to in the end?

Shall we then dispense with correction?
The (method of) correction shall by a turn become distortion,
and the good in it shall by a turn become evil.
The delusion of the people (on this point)
has indeed subsisted for a long time.

Therefore the sage is (like) a square which cuts no one (with its angles);
(like) a corner which injures no one (with its sharpness).
He is straightforward, but allows himself no license;
he is bright, but does not dazzle.

* * *

Translated by Charles Muller

When the government is laid back
The people are relaxed.
When the government is nitpicking
The people have anxiety.
Misfortune depends upon fortune.
Fortune conceals misfortune.
What has a definite delimitation?
Or abnormality?
The normal reverts to strangeness.
Goodness reverts to perversion.
People certainly have been confused for a long time.
Therefore the sage squares things without cutting.
Edges without separating.
Straightens without lining up.
Shines but does not glare.

* * *

Traduit par Ma Kou

A gouvernement indulgent
Peuple simple
A gouvernement sourcilleux
Peuple rusé.

Le bonheur se perche sur le malheur.
Le malheur couche sur le bonheur.

Qui connaît la limite ?
La norme existe-t-elle ?
La règle se transforme en ruse
Le bien devient monstruosité
Et le peuple demeure perplexe.

Ainsi le sage
Est carré mais ne tranche pas.
Est pointu mais ne blesse pas.
Il ne se développe pas au détriment des autres
Et éclaire sans éblouir.