Horses have hoofs to carry them over frost and snow; hair, to protect them from wind and cold. They eat grass and drink water, and fling up their heels over the champaign. Such is the real nature of horses. Palatial dwellings are of no use to them.
One day Po Lo appeared, saying: “I understand the management of horses.”
So he branded them, and clipped them, and pared their hoofs, and put halters on them, tying them up by the head and shackling them by the feet, and disposing them in stables, with the result that two or three in every ten died. Then he kept them hungry and thirsty, trotting them and galloping them, and grooming, and trimming, with the misery of the tasseled bridle before and the fear of the knotted whip behind, until more than half of them were dead.
The potter says: “I can do what I will with clay. If I want it round, I use compasses; if rectangular, a square.”
The carpenter says: “I can do what I will with wood. If I want it curved, I use an arc; if straight, a line.”
But on what grounds can we think that the natures of clay and wood desire this application of compasses and square, of arc and line? Nevertheless, every age extols Po Lo for his skill in managing horses, and potters and carpenters for their skill with clay and wood. Those who govern the empire make the same mistake.
Now I regard government of the empire from quite a different point of view.
The people have certain natural instincts:—to weave and clothe themselves, to till and feed. themselves. These are common to all humanity, and all are agreed thereon. Such instincts are called “Heaven-sent.”
And so in the days when natural instincts prevailed, men moved quietly and gazed steadily. At that time, there were no roads over mountains, nor boats, nor bridges over water. All things were produced, each for its own proper sphere. Birds and beasts multiplied; trees and shrubs grew up. The former might be led by the hand; you could climb up and peep into the raven’s nest. For then man dwelt with birds and beasts, and all creation was one. There were no distinctions of good and bad men. Being all equally without knowledge, their virtue could not go astray. Being all equally without evil desires
they were in a state of natural integrity, the perfection of human existence.
But when Sages appeared, tripping up people over charity and fettering them with duty to their neighbor, doubt found its way into the world. And then, with their gushing over music and fussing over ceremony, the empire became divided against itself.