The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Ecclesiastes
All this, too, I pondered in my heart, and would spare no pains to find out the meaning of it. Here are upright men and wise; and every task of theirs is in God’s keeping, nor can any tell whether they have earned his love, or his displeasure!
This remains as yet uncertain, and meanwhile all have the same lot, upright and godless, good and wicked, clean and unclean alike. Brought they offerings or brought they none, well did they or ill, true swore they or false, it is all one.
Of all that goes amiss, here under the sun, nothing does more hurt than this equality of fortunes; what wonder if men’s hearts, while yet they live, are full of malice and defiance? And so they journey on to the grave.
Were but immortality the prize! But no, hope of that is none; living dog is better off than dead lion.
They live under sentence of death; and when death comes, of nothing will they be aware any longer; no reward can they receive, now that every trace of them has vanished away;
no love, no hatred, no envy can they feel; they have said good-bye to this world, and to all its busy doings, here under the sun.
Go thy ways, then, eat thy bread with a stout heart, and drink wine to thy contenting; that done, God asks no more of thee.
Ever be thy garments of white, ever let thy brow glisten with oil;
live at ease with the wife that is thy heart’s love, long as this uncertain life is granted thee; fugitive days, here beneath the sun. Live thou and labour thou under the sun as thou wilt, this thy portion shall be, and nothing more.
Whatever lies in thy power, do while do it thou canst; there will be no doing, no scheming, no wisdom or skill left to thee in the grave, that soon shall be thy home.
Then my thought took a fresh turn; man’s art does not avail, here beneath the sun, to win the race for the swift, or the battle for the strong, a livelihood for wisdom, riches for great learning, or for the craftsman thanks; chance and the moment rule all.
Nor does man see his end coming; hooked fish or snared bird is not overtaken so suddenly as man is, when the day of doom falls on him unawares.
And here, too, is wise warning, most wise, as I judge it.
There was a small city once, with few men to hold it; and there was a great king that marched out against it, raised a mound and ringed it with siege-works, till it was beleaguered on every side.
To such a city, how came relief? By the wise counsel of one poor man that had his wits about him. And was there anyone, think you, that remembered the poor man afterwards? Not one.
Sure enough, said I, wisdom has the better of valour; but see how the poor man’s wisdom goes for nothing, and no one listens to him now!
A wise man’s whisper carries further than great outcry from a king of fools.
Arms cannot match wisdom; by one slip,✻ what great advantage is lost!
The Holy Bible