The Ancient Seers


The excellent masters of old,

subtle, mysterious, mystic, acute,

were much too profound for their times.

Since they were not then understood,

it is better to tell how they looked.


Like men crossing streams in the winter,

how cautious!

As if all around there were danger,

how watchful!

As if they were guests on every occasion,

how dignified!

Like ice just beginning to melt


Like a wood-block untouched by a tool,

how sincere!

Like a valley awaiting a guest,

how receptive!

Like a torrent that rushes along,

and so turbid!


Who, running dirty, comes clean like still waters?

Who, being quiet, moves others to fullness of life?

It is he who, embracing the Tao, is not greedy;

who endures wear and tear without needing renewal.

- Lao Tzu, The Way of Life XV (tr. by R. B. Blakney)