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these words. The maxim is of man in general: the prison is the womb: the thought is, We brought nothing into this world. This maxim makes a contrast between a king, enfeebled by age, and an ordinary subject with youth on his side. [Note the criterion of age: who knoweth not how to receive admonition any more: a man is old only when he ceases to be capable of improvement.] The king had to be born as a baby: than which nothing is poorer or more helpless. Compare (page 440) King Solomon on his birth.-I saw all the living... that they were with the youth, the second, etc. The maxim goes on to kingly succession: all the world attended the youthful successor of the old king, yet in time this successor will be forgotten in his turn.
Page 408. The Sluggard. A Sonnet.-Wordsworth in one of his Prefaces, dealing with the topic of Poetic Diction, makes a fine contrast between this poem, of primitive simplicity, and a paraphrase of the same by Dr. Samuel Johnson, which reaches the very limit of the artificial.
Turn on the prudent Ant thy heedless eyes,
Page 415. Be stedfast in thy covenant.—That is, thy occupation, the way of life to which thou art committed.
Page 415. He himself made man . . . and left him in the hand of his own counsel.-The phrase finely describes the operation of free will. Compare above (page 420): afflict not thyself in thine own counsel, in application to brooding, or
Page 417. What is brighter than the sun? etc.-The parallelism brings out the sense; the first and third lines are parallel, He looketh referring to the sun. Even the bright sun suffers eclipse; so man is overpowered by the fleshly element in him.
Page 419. On the Tongue.-Compare this with the Essay of St. James on the Responsibility of Speech. [N. T. volume, page 363.]
Page 423. In the handywork of their craft is their prayer.-The familiar Latin saying, Laborare est orare.
Page 424. In the words of the Lord are his works.—This is usually interpreted
of creation by fiat. But the sense is rather that the works of nature are to be received as part of God's sayings to man. Compare The heavens declare the glory of God (page 287) and following lines.
Page 426. Praise of Famous Men. What is here given is only a fragment of a long Essay, enumerating the worthies of Israel. Its treatment of Elijah is a specimen. For we also shall surely live. This is recognized as one of the most difficult passages in Ecclesiasticus. It cannot be a recognition of immortality, for that doctrine is absent from the book. The explanation is probably this. The verse passages in Ecclesiasticus are not the words of the Son of Sirach, but quotations from prophetic hymns (which are lost). In such hymns the line would not be surprising; it would refer to the deliverance of the prophets by Elijah from the persecution of Jezebel. (Pages 79-87.)
Page 429. All the rivers run into the sea unto the place whither the rivers go, thither they go again.-A reference to the circle of the waters as conceived by the ancients. Ocean is the real source of rivers: water from the surface of the ocean is drawn up in vapor, condensed into rain, thus makes rivers running to the ocean their ultimate source. This is a favorite idea in poetry, for spiritual application to man's inherent tendency to his Creator. A fine example is from Sir John Davies's poem Nosce Teipsum.
And as the moisture, which the thirsty earth
Sucks from the sea, to fill her empty veins,
And runs a lymph along the grassy plains:
From whose soft side she first did issue make;
Her flowery banks unwilling to forsake:
Yet nature so her streams doth lead and carry,
Within whose watery bosom first she lay:
E'en so the soul, which in this earthly mould
And only this material world she views:
At first her mother earth she holdeth dear,
She flies close by the ground, and hovers here,
Yet under heaven she cannot light on aught
That with her heavenly nature doth agree:
Page 430. I searched in mine heart... how to lay hold on folly.-The imaginary experimenter is resolved to test all the types of pleasure, including some which the wise call follies (that is impurities): but he adds the parenthesis, mine heart yet guiding me with wisdom: he tries the follies, not for their own sake, but to see what they will contribute to his sense of wisdom.
Page 431. I hated all my labour, etc.-Our modern word would be rather enter prize..
Page 431. The Philosophy of Times and Seasons. The previous essay was a search for a summum bonum; the suggestion of this is that perhaps wisdom is found in multa bona: that all the particular things of life have some place in the field of wisdom; only the writer takes the metaphor of time instead of place.
Page 432. Also, he hath set the world in their heart.-The expression world is for the sense of the universal. Man cannot appreciate the attraction of the details through his craving after the underlying meaning of the whole, which the essayist proceeds to express as the work that God hath done from the beginning even to the end. Bacon makes a fine use of this passage in expounding inductive philosophy [Advancement of Learning, paragraph 3 of Book I].
-declaring not obscurely, that God hath framed the mind of man as a mirror or glass, capable of the image of the universal world, and joyful to receive the impression thereof, as the eye joyeth to receive light; and not only delighted in beholding the variety of things and vicissitude of times, but raised also to find out and discern the ordinances and decrees, which throughout all those changes are infallibly observed. And although he doth insinuate that the supreme or summary law of nature, which he calleth The work which God worketh from the beginning to the end, is not possible to be found out by man; yet that doth not derogate from the capacity of the mind, but may be referred to the impediments, as of shortness of life, ill conjunction of labours, ill tradition of knowledge over from hand to hand, and many other inconveniences, whereunto the condition of man is subject.
Page 433. The fool foldeth his hands, etc.-The punctuation in the text suggests that these words are an objection by an imaginary antagonist: to which the essay makes rejoinder, Better an handful of quietness, etc.
but know thou... God will bring Page 434. Rejoice, O young man... thee into judgement. The whole sentence has been interpreted as a sarcasm: Take thy pleasures, but there will come a terrible judgment. This is impossible, for the sentence continues, Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, etc. The word judgement has reference to moral responsibility. The argument sympathizes with the pleasures of youth, provided only that this is responsible pleasure, recognizing the law of right and wrong.
Page 434. When the keepers of the house shall tremble, etc.-For the symbolism of the whole sonnet see note on page 515.
Page 435. Collectors of sentences which are given from one shepherd.-The latter words refer to the peculiarity of this book in the evolution of wisdom literature: the collection is unified [by prologue and epilogue] into the thought of a single thinker. See above, page 392.
Page 436. Ungodly men... called death unto them... they made a covenant with him.-The life of the ungodly is interpreted as equivalent to a covenant with death, replacing Israel's covenant with God. [Contrast Isaiah's discourse with the same title, where covenant with death means secret treaty that death should pass his friends by. Page 188.] The order of thought in the monologue that follows is: (1) It is certain that death ends all things. (2) Therefore enjoy while we can. (3) Antagonism to the righteous who profess other faith.
Page 438. Understanding is gray hairs unto men, and an unspotted life is ripe old age. As appears throughout the O. T. the great trial to faith was the spectacle of wickedness continuing to live and prosper, and righteousness cut off by untimely death. The present passage maintains that there is no such thing: the righteousness of the life is equivalent to length of days, or Being made perfect in a little while he fulfilled long years. This lofty conception, together with its converse, is finely stated by Young, in his Night Thoughts.
Virtue, not rolling suns, the mind matures.
In hoary youth Methusalehs may die:
Page 440. Solomon's Winning of Wisdom.-Ecclesiastes contains an imagined experiment of Solomon to find wisdom. As if in rejoinder, this book amplifies the historic incident (I Kings 3) of the Dream of Solomon at Gibeon, in which, called upon by God to ask what he desired, Solomon chose to ask for wisdom.
Page 443. Give me Wisdom, her that sitteth by thee on thy throne.-Compare the Wisdom Hymns, especially page
Page 446. The Adversary came also among them. Adversary is the translation of the word Satan. But there are two different usages of the word: as a proper name Satan is Adversary of God, or the Devil. Here and in Zechariah (page 249) the Adversary is the title of an official: an inspector of the Earth, who is adversary of the saints, and only in the sense in which any inspector is for the time being the adversary of those he is charged to inspect. There is nothing malignant in what he does: he reports upon the case of Job, and suggests tests of Job which God approves.
1. Verse in the Bible
It will be seen that what appears as verse in the Modern Reader's Bible differs from verse in ordinary English poetry. It is not made by rhyme, or numbering of syllables in a line; nor does it depend upon feet and longer or shorter syllables, as in Latin; nor upon alliteration, as in Early English. Its basis is something which is called Parallelism of clauses.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
He maketh wars to cease unto the ends of the earth;
The ear catches, in the first passage two clauses, in the second passage three clauses, which run parallel with one another. It is this parallelism of clauses which constitutes Biblical verse.
That such parallelism of clauses gives the sense of recurrent rhythm which is the essence of verse in all languages the reader may satisfy himself by a simple experiment. Let him take such a poem as the National Hymn of the Promised Land (page 53), and, commencing at a particular point, let him read on omitting every alternate line. What he thus reads will come out as plain prose.
He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the covenant which he made with Abraham, and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a statute, saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, when they were but few in number; and they went about from nation to nation. He suffered no man to do them wrong: "Touch not mine anointed ones."
Now let him read again, putting in the omitted lines: he will feel how a sense of rhythm is given by the addition of the parallel lines. The difference is like that between walking and dancing: what makes the dance is the poise of the body maintained from one movement to another.
He hath remembered his covenant for ever,
The word which he commanded to a thousand generations;
The covenant which he made with Abraham,
And his oath unto Isaac;
And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a statute,
Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan,