Saturdao 19

Dao De Jing, verse 12

16 translations

1. James Legge:
Colour's five hues from th' eyes their sight will take;
Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make;
The flavours five deprive the mouth of taste;
The chariot course, and the wild hunting waste
Make mad the mind; and objects rare and strange,
Sought for, men's conduct will to evil change.
Therefore the sage seeks to satisfy (the craving of) the belly, and
not the (insatiable longing of the) eyes. He puts from him the
latter, and prefers to seek the former.
2. Archie Bahm:
Interest in the varieties of color diverts the eye from regarding the thing which is colored.
Attention to the differences between sound distracts the ear from consideration for the source of the sounds.
Desire for enjoyment of the various flavors misdirects the appetite from seeking foods which are truly nourishing.
Excessive devotion to chasing about and pursuing things agitates the mind with insane excitement.
Greed for riches ensnares one’s efforts to pursue his healthier motives.
The intelligent man is concerned about his genuine needs and avoids being confused by dazzling appearances.
He wisely distinguishes the one from the other.
3. Frank MacHovec:
The five colors blind the eye; the five notes deafen the ear; the five tastes dull the tongue.* Hunting and pursuing will unbalance the mind; striving for earthly goods produces unhealthy tension. Therefore the truly wise satisfy the inner self and reject the external. They accept one and deny the other.
4. D.C. Lau:
The five colors make man's eyes blind;
The five notes make his ears deaf;
The five tastes injure his palate;
Riding and hunting
Make his mind go wild with excitement;
Goods hard to come by
Serve to hinder his progress.
Hence the sage is
For the belly
Not for the eye.
Therefore he discards the one and takes the other.
5. Gia-Fu Feng:
The five colors blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavors dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things lead one astray.
Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of that and chooses this.
6. Stan Rosenthal:
“The Repression of Desires”
Through sight, the colours may be seen, but too much colour blinds us.
Apprehending the tones of sound, too much sound might make us deaf,
and too much flavour deadens taste.
When hunting for sport, and chasing for pleasure, the mind easily becomes perplexed.
He who collects treasures for himself more easily becomes anxious.
The wise person fulfills his needs, rather than sensory temptations.
7. Jacob Trapp:
“The Senses”
The five colors may blind the eye,
The five notes deafen the ear,
The five flavors numb the taste-buds.
Indulgence dulls and deadens the senses.
The race, the chase,
Destroy men’s peace.
Rare treasures
Rob men of rest.
Do not cater to your senses,
But provide for your needs.
Seek inner satisfaction
Rather than outward excitement.
8. Stephen Mitchell:
Colors blind the eye.
Sounds deafen the ear.
Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts weaken the mind.
Desires wither the heart.
The Master observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky.
9. Victor Mair:
The five colors
make a man’s eyes blind;
Horseracing and hunting
make a man’s mind go mad;
Goods that are hard to obtain
make a man’s progress falter;
The five flavors
make a man’s palate dull;
The five tones
make a man’s ears deaf.
For these reasons,
In ruling, the sage
attends to the stomach, not to the eye.
He rejects the one and adopts the other.
10. Michael LaFargue:
The five colors make people’s eyes go blind
the five tones make people’s ears go deaf
the five flavors make people’s mouths turn sour.
Galloping and racing, hunting and chasing, make people’s minds go mad.
Goods hard to come by corrupt people’s ways.
And so the Wise Person:
Goes by the belly, not the eye.
He leaves ‘that’ aside, and attends to ‘this’.
11. Peter Merel:
Too much colour blinds the eye,
Too much music deafens the ear,
Too much taste dulls the palate,
Too much play maddens the mind,
Too much desire tears the heart.
In this manner the sage cares for people:
He provides for the belly, not for the senses;
He ignores abstraction and holds fast to substance.
12. Ursula LeGuin:
“Not wanting”
The five colors
blind our eyes.
The five notes
deafen our ears.
The five flavors
dull our taste.
Racing, chasing, hunting,
drives people crazy.
Trying to get rich
ties people in knots.
So the wise soul
watches with the inner
not the outward eye,
letting that go,
keeping this.
13. Ron Hogan:
Sight obscures.
Noise deafens.
Desire messes with your heart.
The world messes with your mind.
A Master watches the world
but keeps focused on what's real.
14. Ames and Hall:
The five colors blind the eye,
The hard riding of the hunt addles both heart and mind,
Property hard to come by subverts proper conduct,
The five flavors destroy the palate,
And the five notes impair the ear.
It is for this reason that in the proper governing by the sages:
They exert their efforts on behalf of the abdomen rather than they eye.
Thus eschewing one they take the other.
15. Yasuhiko Genku Kimura:
The five colors blind the inner eye.
The five tones deafen the inner ear.
The five flavors dull the inner tongue.
In pursuit of outer pleasures,
Racing and hunting madden the inner mind,
Rare goods obstruct inner progress.
The sage attends to that which is within, not that which is without.
He lives from the center, not from the periphery.
16. Addiss and Lombardo:
Five colors darken the eyes.
Five tones deaden the ears.
Five tastes jade the palate.
Hunting and racing madden the heart.
Exotic goods ensnarl human lives.
Therefore the Sage
Takes care of the belly, not the eye,
Chooses one, rejects the other.
* * * * *
*[MacHovec’s note:] According to the ancients, the universe exists in fives:
Five colors: blue, yellow, red, white, black.
Five notes: do, re, mi, sol, la
Five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, salt

* * * * *
The concluding lines today echo what we saw back in verse 3b (Saturdao 7):
"It is for this reason that in the proper governing by the sages:
They empty the hearts-and-minds of the people and fill their stomachs,
They weaken their aspirations and strengthen their bones." (Ames-Hall).

* * * * *
The belly: the center, satiable.
The eye: outward, peripheral, insatiable, ever restless, wandering, discontent.
Be filled with the simple, satisfying.
Live from being rather than doing,
Eyes wide closed.

* * * * *
See: Saturdao Index

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