大道汎兮!其可左右。

1. All-pervading is the Great Dao! It may be found on the left hand and on the right.

萬物恃之而生而不辭。功成不名有。衣養萬物而不為主常無欲;可名於小。萬物歸焉,而不為主;可名為大。

2. All things depend on it for their production, which it gives to them, not one refusing obedience to it. When its work is accomplished, it does not claim the name of having done it. It clothes all things as with a garment, and makes no assumption of being their lord;—it may be named in the smallest things. All things return (to their root and disappear), and do not know that it is it which presides over their doing so;—it may be named in the greatest things.

以其終不自為大,故能成其大。

3. Hence the sage is able (in the same way) to accomplish his great achievements. It is through his not making himself great that he can accomplish them.

Legge's Comments

任成, 'The Task of Achievement.' The subject is the greatness of what the Dao, called here by Lao's own name for it in ch. 25, does; and the conscious simplicity with which it does it; and then the achievements of the sage who is permeated by the Dao. Par. 2 is descriptive of the influence of the Dao in the vegetable world. The statements and expressions are much akin to those in parts of chapters 2, 10, and 51, and for Heshang Gong's difficult reading of 不名有 some copies give 而不居, as in chapter 2.