Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ecclestiastes 2 - an impious rendering

I corrected the typo in my last post - forgot what book I was on! It is foolishness in the face of all who toil under the sun for me to post these words.

There is a little more punctuation in this translation than in my renderings of poetry. This book is not here poetic. It sounds like a self-serving rant. And there is no pious statement except maybe one where the circle of his thought requires him to say God gives - so the sinner appears and the good prosper. Is that the best result of this reasoning from a supposedly rich and wise/shrewd king? - Can't say - haven't got to the end yet. I hope I have left open the possibility of surprise in the phrase: וּרְעוּת רוּחַ u-ra-ut ru-ah. I think this phrase needs ambiguity - how does one tend wind? Could it be nurture the spirit? Be a friend to the Spirit?

I said, I in my heart, go on, I will prove you with happiness,
and see the good.
And I note even this is futility.
Of laughter I said, madness
and of happiness - what does it do?

I explored in my heart to draw my flesh  into wine,
my heart, of course, conducting itself with shrewdness,
and to seize into foolishness till I could see what is this good for the children of earth
that they do under the heavens
in the tale of the days of their lives.

I made myself great from deeds
I built for me houses
I planted for me vineyards
I made for me gardens and paradises
and I planted in them every type of fruit tree
I made for me blessing pools of water
to irrigate from them the forest that sprung from the trees
I got me slaves and slave-girls
and children of the house
I had even livestock, cattle and sheep
the more there were to me than all who were before me in Jerusalem
I heaped up for me even silver and gold
and treasure of kings and the provinces
I made for me singers male and female
and the delights of the children of earth, choir and orchestra

So I was great and had increased above all that were before me in Jerusalem
Also my shrewdness stood with me
And all that my eyes panned
I did not withhold from them
I did not deny my heart from any happiness
for my heart was happy in all my toil
for this was my share of all my toil
Then I faced, I did, in all my deeds that my hands had done
and in the toil that I toiled in the doing
and note - the whole is futility and a tending of wind
for there is nothing left of it under the heavens.

Then I faced, I did, to see shrewdness and madness and foolishness
for what about the earthling that comes after the king?
Exactly what has already been done.
But I saw, I did, that there is something left in shrewdness over foolishness
like what is left of the light over darkness.
The eyes of one who is shrewd are in the head
but one who is foolish walks in darkness
and even I, I knew that one event meets them all.
Then I said, I did, in my heart
As it meets the foolish it will meet even me
so why (I myself am shrewd) then is anything left to me?(1)
Then I thought in my heart that even this is futility.
For there is no remembrance of the shrewd or of the foolish for ever.
In that already in the days to come the whole will be forgotten
and so it is that the shrewd dies with the foolish.

So I hated those lives
for evil to me was the deed that was done under the sun
for the whole is futility and a tending of wind.
And I hated, I did, all my toil that I myself was as toil under the sun
that I must bequeath to the earthling that comes after me.
And who knows if that one will be shrewd or foolish?
Yet he will take charge over all my toil which I toiled
and in which I was shrewd under the sun.
So this is futility.

So I circled, my heart in despair, over all the toil that I toiled under the sun.
For here is an earthling whose toil is in shrewdness and in knowledge and in success
and to an earthling that did not toil for it
he will give it as his share.
This also is futility and great evil.
For what is there to an earthling in all his toil and of his heart's tending that he has of toil under the sun?
For all his days are pain
and his business grief.
Even in the night there is no lying down for his heart.
Even this is futility for him.
There is no good for the earthling that eats and drinks and makes himself see good in his toil.
Even this I myself saw
for it is from the hand of God
For who eats or who hastes more than I?
For to an earthling that is good in his presence, he gives shrewdness and knowledge and happiness.
But to a sinner he gives business to gather and to heap up to give to the good in the presence of God.
There you have it: this is futility and a tending of wind.
(1) see the agony of the comments