Saturdao 14

Dao De Jing, verse 9

16 translations

1. James Legge:
It is better to leave a vessel unfilled, than to attempt to carry it when it is full.
If you keep feeling a point that has been sharpened, the point cannot long preserve its sharpness.
When gold and jade fill the hall, their possessor cannot keep them safe.
When wealth and honours lead to arrogancy, this brings its evil on itself.
When the work is done, and one's name is becoming distinguished,
to withdraw into obscurity is the way of Heaven.
2. Archie Bahm:
Going to extremes is never best.
For if you make a blade too sharp, it will become dull too quickly.
And if you hoard all the wealth, you are bound to be attacked.
If you become proud and arrogant regarding your good fortune, you will naturally beget enemies who jealously despise you.
The way to success is this: having achieved your goal, be satisfied not to go further.
For this is the way Nature operates.
3. Frank MacHovec:
There is a danger in extremes: pull a bowstring too far and you wish you had let go before; hone a sword-edge too sharp and the edge will wear too soon; fill your house with gold and jade and you invite thieves; be proud and arrogant over good fortune and you prepare for your own downfall. When you have reached your goal, be satisfied to go no further. This is the way of Tao.
4. D.C. Lau
Rather than fill it to the brim by keeping it upright
Better to have stopped in time;
Hammer it to a point
And the sharpness cannot be preserved for ever;
There may be gold and jade to fill a hall
But there is none who can keep them.
To be overbearing when one has wealth and position
Is to bring calamity upon oneself.
To retire when the task is accomplished
Is the way of heaven.
5. Gia-Fu Feng:
Better stop short than fill to the brim.
Oversharpen the blade, and the edge will soon blunt.
Amass a store of gold and jade, and no one can protect it.
Claim wealth and titles, and disaster will follow.
Retire when the work is done.
This is the way of heaven.
6. Stan Rosenthal:
“Without Extremes”
The cup is easier to hold when not filled to overflowing.
The blade is more effective if not tempered beyond its mettle.
Gold and jade are easier to protect if possessed in moderation.
He who seeks titles, invites his own downfall.
The sage works quietly, seeking neither praise nor fame;
completing what he does with natural ease, and then retiring.
This is the way and nature of Tao.
7. Jacob Trapp:
“Moderation, Self-Control”
Overstretch the bow,
And you lose control of the arrow’s flight.
Grind the blade too sharp,
And the cutting edge will curl.
No lock will hold for him who fills
His house with gold and jade.
No fence will keep him from a fall
Who walks the brink of pride.
To know where enough becomes too much,
This indeed is to know one’s way.
Controlled aim, modesty, moderateness,
The Tao of Heaven will bless.
8. Stephen Mitchell:
Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.
9. Victor Mair
Instead of keeping a bow taut while holding it straight, better to relax.
You may temper a sword until it is razor sharp, but you cannot preserve the edge for long.
When gold and jade fill your rooms, no one will be able to guard them for you.
If wealth and honor make you haughty, you bequeath misfortune upon yourself.
To withdraw when your work is finished, that is the Way of heaven.
10. Michael LaFargue:
In filling, if you keep on and on –
better to have stopped.
In sharpening, if you keep trying –
the edge won’t last long.
When gold and jade fill the halls,
no one can guard it all.
Rich, famous – and conceited:
leading to a downfall self-caused.
Achieve successes,
win the fame,
remove yourself:
Heaven’s way.
11. Peter Merel:
Fill a cup to its brim and it is easily spilled;
Temper a sword to its hardest and it is easily broken;
Amass the greatest treasure and it is easily stolen;
Claim credit and honour and you easily fall;
Retire once your purpose is achieved - this is natural.
12. Ursula LeGuin:
“Being quiet”
Brim-fill the bowl,
it’ll spill over.
Keep sharpening the blade,
you’ll soon blunt it.
Nobody can protect
a house full of gold and jade.
Wealth, status, pride,
are their own ruin.
To do good, work well, and lie low
is the way of the blessing.
13. Ron Hogan:
If you drink too much, you get drunk.
The engine won't start
if you're always tinkering with it.
If you hoard wealth,
you fall into its clutches.
If you crave success,
you succumb to failure.
Do what you have to do,
then walk away.
Anything else will drive you nuts.
14. Ames and Hall:
It is better to desist
Than to try to hold it upright and fill it to the brim.
Pounded out to a point
Its sharpness cannot be long maintained.
When treasure fills the hall,
No one is able to keep it safe.
Those who are arrogant because of station and wealth
Bring calamity upon themselves.
To retire when the deed is done
Is the way (dao) that tian works.
15. Yasuhiko Genku Kimura:
To fill to the brim is to be out of balance,
Wherefore it is better to stop before overfilling.
To over-sharpen a sword is to be out of balance,
Wherefore its edge will not last long.
To line a hall with gold and jade is to be out of balance,
Wherefore no one can guard them.
If wealth and rank make a man haughty and clinging,
He will surely bequeath misfortune upon himself.
If success is achieved and honor bestowed,
Quietly withdraw from your position.
This is the way of heaven.
16. Addiss and Lombardo
Hold and fill it –
Not as good as stopping in time.
Measure and pound it –
It will not long survive.
When gold and jade fill the hall,
They cannot be guarded.
Riches and pride
Bequeath error.
Withdrawing when work is done:
Heaven’s Tao.
 * * * * *
"Within the human world as in nature, taking any endeavor to its extreme will result in a reversal of this direction and a selfinduced subversion of the enterprise. What goes up must come down." (Ames and Hall comment).

See: Saturdao Index

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