The Useless Tree

Hui Tzu said to Chaung:

I have a big tree,

The kind they call a “stinktree.”

The trunk is so distorted,

So full of knots,

No one can get a straight plank

Out of it.  The branches are so crooked

You cannot cut them up

In any way that makes sense

There it stands beside the road.

No carpenter will even look at it.

Such is your teaching –

Big and useless.

Chaung Tzu replied:

Have you ever watched the wildcat

Crouching, watching his prey –

This way it leaps, and that way,

High and low, and at last

Lands in the trap.

But have you seen the yak?

Great as a thundercloud

He stands in his might.

Big? Sure,

He can’t catch mice!

So for your big tree.  No use?

Then plant it in the wasteland

In emptiness.

Walk idly around,

Rest under its shadow;

No axe or bill prepares its end.

No one will ever cut it down.

Useless? You should worry!

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