The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Ecclesiastes
What need for man to ask questions that are beyond his scope? There is no knowing how best his life should be spent, this brief pilgrimage that passes like a shadow, and is gone. And what will befall after his death, in this world beneath the sun, who can tell?
There is no embalming like a good name left behind; man’s true birthday is the day of his death.
Better a visit paid where men mourn, than where they feast; it will put thee in mind of the end that awaits us all, admonish the living with the foreknowledge of death.
Frown ere thou smile; the downcast look betokens a chastened heart.
Sadness, a home for the wise man’s thoughts, mirth for the fool’s.
Better receive a wise man’s rebuke, than hear thy praises sung by fools.
Loud but not long the thorns crackle under the pot, and fools make merry; for them, too, frustration.
Oppression bewilders even a wise man’s wits, and undermines his courage.
Speech may end fair, that foul began; patience is better than a proud heart.
Never be quick to take offence; it is a fool’s heart that harbours grudges.
Never ask why the old times were better than ours; a fool’s question.
Great worth has wisdom matched with good endowment; more advantage it shall bring thee than all the rest, here under the sun.
Wealth befriends whom wisdom befriends; better still, who learns wisdom wins life.
Mark well God’s doings; where he looks askance, none may set the crooked straight.
Come good times, accept the good they bring; come evil, let them never take thee unawares; bethink thee, that God has balanced these against those, and will have no man repine over his lot.
In my days of baffled enquiry, I have seen pious men ruined for all their piety, and evil-doers live long in all their wickedness.
Why then, do not set too much store by piety, nor play the wise man to excess, if thou wouldst not be bewildered over thy lot.
Yet plunge not deep in evil-doing; folly eschew; else thou shalt perish before thy time.
To piety thou must needs cling, yet live by that other caution too; fear God, and thou hast left no duty unfulfilled.✻
Wisdom is a surer ally than ten city magistrates;
there is no man on earth so exact over his duties that he does ever the right, never commits a fault.
The chance words men utter, heed but little; how if thou shouldst hear thy own servant speaking ill of thee?
Thy own conscience will tell thee how often thou too hast spoken ill of other men.
Thus, by the touchstone of my wisdom, I would test all things; Wisdom, cried I, I must have; yet all the while she withdrew from me,
further away than ever. Deep, deep is her secret; who shall read it?
Here is a mind that has passed the whole world of things in review, examining everything, weighing everything, so as to have a wise estimation of them, eager to understand the fool’s rebelliousness, the false calculations of rash souls.
And this I have ascertained; death itself is not so cruel as woman’s heart that wheedles and beguiles, as woman’s clutches that release their captive never. God’s friends escape her; of sinners she makes an easy prey.
I weighed this against that (he, the Spokesman, tells us), and the sum of my enquiry was this.
One thing I ever longed to find, and found never, a true woman. One true man I might find among a thousand, but a woman never.
Of this, beyond all else, I have satisfied myself; man’s nature was simple enough when God made him, and these endless questions are of his own devising.
The wise man, there is none like him. O for one who should read the riddle!
The Holy Bible