太上,下知有之。其次親而譽之。其次畏之;其次侮之。信不足焉有不信焉。

1. In the highest antiquity, (the people) did not know that there were (their rulers). In the next age they loved them and praised them. In the next they feared them; in the next they despised them. Thus it was that when faith (in the Dao) was deficient (in the rulers) a want of faith in them ensued (in the people).

悠兮其貴言!功成事遂,百姓皆謂我自然!

2. How irresolute did those (earliest rulers) appear, showing (by their reticence) the importance which they set upon their words! Their work was done and their undertakings were successful, while the people all said, 'We are as we are, of ourselves!'

Legge's Comments

淳風, 'The Unadulterated Influence.' The influence is that of the Dao, as seen in the earliest and paradisiacal times. The two chapters that follow are closely connected with this, showing how the silent, passionless influence of the Dao was gradually and injuriously superseded by 'the wisdom of the world,' in the conduct of government. In the first sentence there is a small various reading of for , but it does not affect the meaning of the passage. The first clause of par. 2 gives some difficulty; 其貴言, 'they made their words valuable or precious,' i.e. 'they seldom spake;' cp. I Sam. iii. 1.