The Way is like a great river:
when the flood turns, nobody can stop it.

The project is finished,
the program is released,
but the Way has no name to credit.

The ten thousand programs return to the Way,
but it does not control them:
thus, it can be called the Small,
but it can also be called the Great.

This is how the Consultant
can accomplish great things:
because he does not try to make himself great,
greatness can follow him.


chapter notes:

In the first verse, “river” may be only vaguely consonant with the original. I chose it in the following sense:

On a historical scale, the great rivers of ancient China writhed across their valleys like angry dragons. To protect their lives and livelihoods, the Chinese raised levees to constrain the flood; these were the work of generations and the labor of millions.

Inevitably, the levees fail. When this happens, it is always too late: without regard for humans or their works, the river finds a new path — left, or right, as it may be.