道常無為,而無不為。

1. The Dao in its regular course does nothing (for the sake of doing it), and so there is nothing which it does not do.

侯王若能守之,萬物將自化。

2. If princes and kings were able to maintain it, all things would of themselves be transformed by them.

化而欲作,吾將鎮之以無名之樸。
無名之樸
夫亦將無欲。
不欲以靜,
天下將自定。

3. If this transformation became to me an object of desire, I would express the desire by the nameless simplicity.

    Simplicity without a name
    Is free from all external aim.
    With no desire, at rest and still,
    All things go right as of their will.

Legge's Comments

為政, 'The Exercise of Government.' This exercise should be according to the Dao, doing without doing, governing without government.

The subject of the third paragraph is a feudal prince or the king, and he is spoken of in the first person, to give more vividness to the style, unless the , 'I,' may, possibly, be understood of Laozi himself impersonating one of them.