Saturday, 14 December 2013

Now here's some fun for Christmas

I have in all humility (!) been reviewing my all-time favorite posts in the blog world. Quite unexpectedly, the all-time favorites on my blog are some of the posts containing my 2010 translation of Ecclesiastes (Qohelet), which I made up in the style of Dr. Seuss. (You know, I think their popularity may be accidental. The automated transcription of the Hebrew may catch the search engines by surprise.)

I am not sure I can still do doggerel, but I remember laughing then and I still do now. Yet do not laugh too much (see verse 6 below).

The thought of Christmas comes from chapter 7 and the Grinch in the text. So as an exercise, I reread my work, the play of my learning, to see if it would get through my translation net today. It didn't. I am sure much more discussion could arise on my choices. Equally, my net may stretch or even tear and require repairing.
Ecclesiastes chapter 7 says that there is a Grinch in heaven?
Heavens! A Grinch - really? In the Bible - O no, not so.

Who says "good is vexation over laughter 
for in a facial grimace the heart is made good
and is not laughing himself in the heaven of heavens?
You can't read chapter 7 without the last verse of chapter 6 - so you know the antecedent of the pronoun that some translations omit. The earthling of the prior chapter is the antecedent of its. And the end is a curious revelation and a curious twist. I have not fathomed it.

(I have just joined the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid #bgbg2 - and there is my first pointer to one of their features - a way of comparing up to 5 translations at a glance.)

Here's my translation, one I struggle with at each twist and turn as I read in the intriguing foreignness of the ancient world. Warning - there is next to no punctuation. I use deliberate repetition where the Hebrew has repetition, and I avoid some words - like better.

The sign ^ shows the rest point in the verse if there is one. (Only verse 4 lacks such a sign.) The rest point is a guard against violating the primary disjunction in the text. This is the subdominant in the music implied in the te'amim. Pause in your reading to slow your spirit.
For who knows what is good for the earthling in these lives, in the tale of the days of the lives of its futility? And as a shadow it makes them, but who will make clear to the earthing what has become after it   --- under the sun?
טוֹב שֵׁם מִשֶּׁמֶן טוֹב
וְיוֹם הַמָּוֶת מִיּוֹם הִוָּלְדוֹ
a good name may be compared with good oil^
and the day of death with the day of its birth
טוֹב לָלֶכֶת אֶל בֵּית אֵבֶל
מִלֶּכֶת אֶל בֵּית מִשְׁתֶּה
בַּאֲשֶׁר הוּא סוֹף כָּל הָאָדָם
וְהַחַי יִתֵּן אֶל לִבּוֹ
good it is to walk to a house of lament
compared to walking to a house of feasting
in that itself is the conclusion of every earthling^
and one who lives will take it to heart
טוֹב כַּעַס מִשְּׂחוֹק
כִּי בְרֹעַ פָּנִים יִיטַב לֵב
good is grief compared to laughter^
for in a facial grimace a heart is made good
לֵב חֲכָמִים בְּבֵית אֵבֶל
וְלֵב כְּסִילִים בְּבֵית שִׂמְחָה
the heart of the shrewd is in the house of lament
but the heart of the foolish is in the house of gladness
טוֹב לִשְׁמֹעַ גַּעֲרַת חָכָם 
מֵאִישׁ שֹׁמֵעַ שִׁיר כְּסִילִים
good it is to hear the rebuke of the shrewd^
compared to one's hearing of the song of fools
כִּי כְקוֹל הַסִּירִים תַּחַת הַסִּיר
כֵּן שְׂחֹק הַכְּסִיל
וְגַם זֶה הָבֶל
for as the voice of the thorns under the pot
so is the laughter of the fool^
and even this is futility
כִּי הָעֹשֶׁק יְהוֹלֵל חָכָם
וִיאַבֵּד אֶת לֵב מַתָּנָה
for the oppression maddens the shrewd^
and a gift makes a heart perish
טוֹב אַחֲרִית דָּבָר מֵרֵאשִׁיתוֹ
טוֹב אֶרֶךְ רוּחַ מִגְּבַהּ רוּחַ
good is a thing's end compared to its beginning^
good is a slow spirit 
compared to a proud spirit
אַל תְּבַהֵל בְּרוּחֲךָ לִכְעוֹס
כִּי כַעַס בְּחֵיק כְּסִילִים יָנוּחַ
let not grief vex your spirit^
for grief reposes in the embrace of fools
אַל תֹּאמַר מֶה הָיָה שֶׁהַיָּמִים הָרִאשֹׁנִים
הָיוּ טוֹבִים מֵאֵלֶּה
כִּי לֹא מֵחָכְמָה שָׁאַלְתָּ עַל זֶה
say not - 'how is it that the days of the beginning 
were good compared to these?'^
for it is not from shrewdness that you beg for them
טוֹבָה חָכְמָה עִם נַחֲלָה
וְיֹתֵר לְרֹאֵי הַשָּׁמֶשׁ
good is shrewdness with an inheritance^
when it is left to those that see the sun
כִּי בְּצֵל הַחָכְמָה
בְּצֵל הַכָּסֶף
וְיִתְרוֹן דַּעַת הַחָכְמָה
תְּחַיֶּה בְעָלֶיהָ
for in the shadow of shrewdness,
is in the shadow of silver^
and what is left of knowledge is shrewdness
she keeps her husband alive
רְאֵה אֶת מַעֲשֵׂה הָאֱלֹהִים 
כִּי מִי יוּכַל לְתַקֵּן אֵת אֲשֶׁר עִוְּתוֹ
See what this God does^
for who can straighten what he subverts?
בְּיוֹם טוֹבָה הֱיֵה בְטוֹב
וּבְיוֹם רָעָה רְאֵה
גַּם אֶת זֶה לְעֻמַּת זֶה
עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים עַל דִּבְרַת שֶׁלֹּא יִמְצָא הָאָדָם
אַחֲרָיו מְאוּמָה
in a good day, be in the good
and in an evil day, see^

even this set against that
this God has made up things that the earthling will not find
--- after him nothing!
אֶת הַכֹּל רָאִיתִי בִּימֵי הֶבְלִי
יֵשׁ צַדִּיק אֹבֵד בְּצִדְקוֹ
וְיֵשׁ רָשָׁע מַאֲרִיךְ בְּרָעָתוֹ
I have seen everything in the days of my futility^
here is a righteous one that perished in his righteousness
and here is a wicked one prolonged in his evil
אַל תְּהִי צַדִּיק הַרְבֵּה
וְאַל תִּתְחַכַּם יוֹתֵר 
לָמָּה תִּשּׁוֹמֵם
do not be too much righteous
and do not leave yourself with excess shrewdness^
why make yourself desolate?
אַל תִּרְשַׁע הַרְבֵּה 
וְאַל תְּהִי סָכָל 
לָמָּה תָמוּת בְּלֹא עִתֶּךָ
do not be too wicked
and don't be foolish^
why die when it's not your time?
טוֹב אֲשֶׁר תֶּאֱחֹז בָּזֶה
וְגַם מִזֶּה אַל תַּנַּח אֶת יָדֶךָ 
כִּי יְרֵא אֱלֹהִים יֵצֵא אֶת כֻּלָּם
good it is that you should grasp this
and even from that not rest your hand^
for the one who fears God emerges from them all
הַחָכְמָה תָּעֹז לֶחָכָם 
מֵעֲשָׂרָה שַׁלִּיטִים אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ בָּעִיר
shrewdness strengthens the shrewd^
over ten bullies that are in the city
כִּי אָדָם אֵין צַדִּיק בָּאָרֶץ 
אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה טּוֹב וְלֹא יֶחֱטָא
for there is no righteous earthling in the earth^
that does good and does not sin
גַּם לְכָל הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּרוּ
אַל תִּתֵּן לִבֶּךָ
אֲשֶׁר לֹא תִשְׁמַע אֶת עַבְדְּךָ מְקַלְלֶךָ
even of all the things that are spoken
don't take them to your heart^
lest you hear your servant slight you
כִּי גַּם פְּעָמִים רַבּוֹת יָדַע לִבֶּךָ 
אֲשֶׁר גַּם אַתָּה קִלַּלְתָּ אֲחֵרִים
for even your rapidly beating heart knows^
that even you have slighted others
כָּל זֹה נִסִּיתִי בַחָכְמָה
אָמַרְתִּי אֶחְכָּמָה וְהִיא רְחוֹקָה מִמֶּנִּי
All this I have proved with shrewdness^
I said 'I will be shrewd' but she was distant from me
רָחוֹק מַה שֶּׁהָיָה
וְעָמֹק עָמֹק מִי יִמְצָאֶנּוּ
What is it that is so distant^
and deeply deep? who will find it?
סַבּוֹתִי אֲנִי וְלִבִּי לָדַעַת
וְלָתוּר וּבַקֵּשׁ חָכְמָה וְחֶשְׁבּוֹן
וְלָדַעַת רֶשַׁע כֶּסֶל וְהַסִּכְלוּת הוֹלֵלוֹת
I circled, I and my heart, to know
and to explore and seek shrewdness and rationality^
and to know wickedness, folly, and foolhardy madness
וּמוֹצֶא אֲנִי מַר מִמָּוֶת אֶת הָאִשָּׁה
אֲשֶׁר הִיא מְצוֹדִים וַחֲרָמִים
לִבָּהּ אֲסוּרִים יָדֶיהָ
טוֹב לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים יִמָּלֵט מִמֶּנָּה
וְחוֹטֵא יִלָּכֶד בָּהּ
and I, I found the woman more bitter than death
that she is entrapment and devotions^
her heart is the bondage of her hands
one who is good in the presence of this God will escape from her
but the sinner is caught in her
רְאֵה זֶה מָצָאתִי אָמְרָה קֹהֶלֶת
אַחַת לְאַחַת לִמְצֹא חֶשְׁבּוֹן
'See, this I have found', Qohelet, (preacher), herself said^
one by one to find out rationality
אֲשֶׁר עוֹד בִּקְשָׁה נַפְשִׁי וְלֹא מָצָאתִי 
אָדָם אֶחָד מֵאֶלֶף מָצָאתִי 
וְאִשָּׁה בְכָל אֵלֶּה לֹא מָצָאתִי
that yet I seek and I have not found^
An earthling, one in a thousand, I have found
and a woman among all these, I have not found
לְבַד רְאֵה זֶה מָצָאתִי
אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה הָאֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאָדָם יָשָׁר
וְהֵמָּה בִקְשׁוּ חִשְּׁבֹנוֹת רַבִּים
see, this alone I have found
that this God has made the earthling upright^
but they have sought many rationalizations
Compare Song 1:3
Note what is almost a palindrome in the Hebrew.
Qohelet is the grinch.
'thing' or word, but word is a round vowel and thing a narrow one, a heavy sound compare to a light one.
cf Eccl 1:15, this God. The noun has an unnecessary definite article attached.
cf Eccl 7:18 bazeh ... mizeh.
cf Eccl 1:17
Seow considers the last line a scribal 'enhancement'. Pity. If this be projection, it is not missing today either. It is not above a man to blame woman for his own weakness. But shrewdness should let each discover its own heart and not impute the cause of trouble to another. Compare Job 31:9-10 for a cultural view from a righteous man in his last defense.

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