Earth is Like a Vessel


(6th century BCE, Chapter 29 from the Tao Te Ching)

Those who would take over the Earth
And shape it to their will
     Never, I notice, succeed.

For the Earth is like a vessel so sacred
That at the merest touch of the profane—
     It is marred,
And when they reach out their hands to grasp it—
     It is gone.

For a time some force themselves ahead
     And some are left behind,
For a time some make a great noise
     And some are held silent,
For a time some are puffed fat
     And some are kept hungry,
For a time some are held up
     And some are destroyed.

But at no time will a man who is sane:
     Over-reach himself,
     Over-spend himself,
     Over-rate himself.

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