The Modern World
古之善為士者 微妙 玄通 深不可識 In the old days, the best influencers were a bit mysterious, strangely reasonable, definitely inscrutable. 夫唯不可識 故強為之容 In fact, being inscrutable is what made them so popular.
豫兮若冬涉川 猶兮若畏四鄰 They were careful, like a winter crossing, and reserved, like respectful neighbours. 儼兮其若容 渙兮若冰之將釋 They were as serious as they were popular, but chill, like melting ice. 敦兮其若樸 曠兮其若谷 混兮其若濁 They were as true as timber, as wide as valleys, as messy as mud.
孰能濁以靜之徐清 孰能安以久動之徐生 Who else would quietly clean up by calming us down, and who else would quietly steady us by keeping us moving?
保此道者 不欲盈 These days, people with that kind of clout don't care about reach. 夫唯不盈 故能蔽 不新成 In fact, not drawing attention to themselves is what makes them so good at protecting us, not promoting themselves.
This poem is another description of what Dao looks like as someone who leads from a position of weakness without anyone even knowing it.
There's a lot of variation in the poem between different versions, especially in the section that compares 古之善為士者, the old-school gentleman, to various activities, attitudes and natural phenomena. Some words have double meanings, definitions specific to Daoism, and entries in the Yijing, so it's obscure, like the inaudible, invisible, ineffable influence it describes.
The little ditty before the punchline could more accurately be rendered as something like, 孰能濁以靜之徐清 Who can gradually clean filth by stilling it? 孰能安以久動之徐生 Who can gradually make peace by consistently promoting it?
In the punchline saying, it's not easy to reconcile 盈, 蔽 and 新成 to each other and to the context of the poem, so there's not much agreement between translations, though I've gone, more or less, with the interpretation in Heshang Gong's commentary.
As verbs, 盈 is increase, enlarge, and 蔽 fits the poem's theme as cover over, conceal, protect, shelter. 新成 appears pretty often in ctext as an adjective meaning something like newly built.
To make sense of 盈, I noticed that ctext's Guodian substitutes 尚浧 for 盈. 浧 appears three times in ctext, once in this poem, once in the Guodian version of Daodejing chapter 20, where it's clearly a synonym for 盈, and once in Guanzi, where Allyn Rickett reads it as 逞 (and cites Jin) and translates it as quick (Rickett, Guanzi, 1998).
It's an unorthodox stretch, but given Rickett's reading, I'm pretty sure that 盈 (or 尚逞) is meant to contrast 徐 of the previous saying in order to tie the punchline clearly to the rest of the poem. If so, 徐 vs 盈 is the difference between calm incrementalism and passionate evangelism. Cancel one, claim the other.