The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Wisdom
High above us, Lord, are thy judgements, mysterious thy dealings; no skill had those Egyptian hearts to understand them.
They had thought to exercise barbarous tyranny over a nation consecrated to thee. And now they lay, shut close under their own roofs, darkness their dungeon, their sentence a long-drawn night, exiled from the gifts of thy eternal Providence.
Did they hope, under that dark veil of oblivion, to find a cloak for secret sinning? Nay, they were scattered far apart, and in grievous dread of the terrors that came to daunt them.
Lie snug in their hidden lairs they might not; noises swept down, echoing about their affrighted ears, and boding visions of sad faces cowed their spirits.
Fire itself no light could give them, nor star’s clear beam illuminate that hideous night;
only now and again a blaze shone out, not of their kindling, terrible to behold; and fear of this unseen radiance lent fresh horror to the sights it shewed.✻
A mockery, now, seemed those magic arts of theirs; ignominious the rebuff to their boasted cunning.
The very men who had professed to rid ailing minds of all discomposure and disquiet, were now themselves sick with apprehension, to their great discomfiture.
Even when no alarms were present to disturb them, the memory of prowling beast and hissing serpent filled them with mortal tremors, till they shut their eyes against the sight of empty air, we must all breathe.✻
So cowardly a thing is wickedness, it pronounces its own condemnation; hard pressed by conscience, it forecasts ever the worst.
What else is timorousness, but a betrayal of the vantage-ground reason gives us?
Imagination, already defeated within its own stronghold, fears the unknown more than it fears the true source of its misery.
Whether the darkness that held them bound were true night, or that darkness which comes up from the lowest depths of the grave, their bemused senses could not well distinguish;✻
now monstrous apparitions came indeed to scare them, now it was but their own faint hearts made cowards of them; in a moment dismay was all about them, and took them unawares.
Into this prison, then, that needed no bars to secure it, all fell alike, whatever their condition;
tiller of the fields, or shepherd, or workman that plied his task out in the desert, each was caught at his post, each must abide the inevitable lot,
by darkness, like all his fellows, held in thrall. Did the wind whistle, or bird utter tuneful notes deep amid the boughs; were it the dull roar of some waterfall,
or the sudden crash of tumbling rocks, or the padding feet of beasts that gambolled past them unseen, or the howl of wild things ravening, or a booming echo from the mountain hollows, it was all one; it would startle them into a great quaking of fear.
All around them the world was bathed in the clear sunlight, and men went about their tasks unhindered;
over them alone this heavy curtain of night was spread, image of the darkness that should be their next abode. Yet each man had a burden heavier to bear than darkness itself, the burden of his own companionship.
The Holy Bible