An initiative of the Menil Collection with cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in the Greater Houston area.
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a couple of Daoist poems for warmongers

Jan 28
3:21 pm
By Menil



A Daoist wouldn’t advise a ruler
to use force of arms for conquest;
that tactic backfires.

Where the army marched
grows thorns and thistles.
After the war
come the bad harvests.
Good leaders prosper, that’s all,
not presuming on victory.
They prosper without boasting,
or domineering, or arrogance,
prosper because they can’t help it,
prosper without violence.

Things flourish then perish.
Not the Way.
What’s not the Way
soon ends.



Even the best weapon
is an unhappy tool,
hateful to living things.
So the follower of the Way
stays away from it.

Weapons are unhappy tools,
not chosen by thoughtful people
to be used only when there is no choice,
and with a calm, still mind,
without enjoyment.
To enjoy using weapons
is to enjoy killing people
and to enjoy killing people
is to lose your share in the common good.

It is right that the murderer of many people
be mourned and lamented.
It is right that a victor in war
be received with funeral ceremonies.

Chapters 30, 31
Dao Dejing/Tao Te Ching
Translations from
Lao tzu: Tao Te Ching, an English Version by Ursula K. LeGuin
Boston: Shambhala, 1997