Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Total futility Qohelet a la Dr Suess

There is really a lovely lilt to the declamations of Qohelet - Dr. Seuss wins. How will I continue without splitting my sides. Tov tov tov - and where are those olives!

Listen
הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים 
אָמַר קֹהֶלֶת
הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים
הַכֹּל הָבֶל
        havel havlim
amar qohelet
havel havlim
hacol havel
       An utter futility,
touts Qohelet,
an utter futility,
total futility.

Get the words into your ears. There is more!  The dour phrase tachat hashemash - under the sun
should always be read as a somewhat menacing refrain (and there are other short final phrases like it in chapters 1 to 4).

מַה יִּתְרוֹן לָאָדָם
בְּכָל עֲמָלוֹ שֶׁיַּעֲמֹל
תַּחַת הַשָּׁמֶש
ma yitron la'adam
      becol amlo sh`yamol
tachat hashemash
What is left to an earthling
in all its toil that it toils
under the sun?

I tell you - it just keeps on going in this fashion. Totally strange mixture of prose and poetry sections and there seems no doubt that it is sometimes tongue in cheek. It takes very little effort to take my chapters 1 and 2 as posted and let them be doggerel-led.

And here's a snippet from chapter 3
and one from 4 to follow
and I'm sure you will with me agree
that It's not too hard to swallow

הַכֹּל הוֹלֵך אֶל מָקוֹם אֶחָד 
הַכֹּל הָיָה מִן הֶעָפָר
וְהַכֹּל שָׁב אֶל הֶעָפָר
     hacol holek `el maqom echad
hacol hayah min heaphar
vhacol shav `el heaphar
     They all come to one place
they all are from the dust
and they all turn to the dust
מִי יוֹדֵע רוּחַ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם
הָעֹלָה הִיא לְמָעְלָה
וְרוּח הַבְּהֵמָה הַיֹּרֶדֶת
הִיא לְמַטָּה לָאָרֶץ
mi yodah ruah beni ha'adam
ha`olah hie lema'elah
veruah habehemah horedet
hi lematah la'aretz
who knows if the sprite of the earthling child
rises herself to the height
and the sprite of the beast descends
herself down to depths of the earth?

And now I cheat for tis not chapter 4
in the English bibles around
but the verse is from the beginning of five
as if we were too quick there-bound

שְׁמֹר רַגְלְךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵךְ
אֶל בֵּית הָאֱלֹהִים
וְקָרוֹב לִשְׁמֹעַ מִתֵּת
הַכְּסִילִים זָבַח
  כִּי אֵינָם יוֹדְעִים
לַעֲשׂוֹת רָע
      shmor ragleka ca'asher telek
'el beyit ha'elohim
veqarov lishmoa mitet
hacsilim zavach
ki ainam yod`im
leasot ra`
    keep your footing when you go
into the house of God
        and more ready to hear than to give
in the foolish offering
for they haven't a clue
that what they do
is evil


2 comments:

  1. So, Dr Q? A sort of grown-up's Dr Seuss?

    This is a really intersting thought...

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  2. Heh - I am sure you will take care Tim - I am barely a four-year-old. But this book is only 12 chapters so a couple of months is all I should take in its study for a first pass. (I am not Jerome who is supposed to have translated it in a day or so!)

    I will push this experiment - but I must be prepared to see the possibility of a change of tone - perhaps along one of the seams in the book.

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