"Dream of Solomon" by Luca GiordanoEcclesiastes 1, Recast in Classical Poetry, by T.M. Moore The Society October 23, 2019 Beauty, Culture, Poetry 15 Comments Wind and Vanity after Ecclesiastes 1 My name is Solomon, and you may know me as the king of Israel, David’s son, a man of wisdom unsurpassed. And so I was. And yet I write to you as one emerging from some near-insanity and folly. I have seen, beneath the sun— where all is only matter, time, and free will—that the best of man’s intentions and exertions are but pride and vanity. What profit from his labors has a man when all is said and done? What difference does he make? What does he leave behind? How can he hope to be remembered, though he was intent on carving out a legacy? The generations come and go, because death comes to all; the hungry grave will be our common fate. And yet, the earth abides. The sun comes up each day perpetually; and then it sets, returning like the tides, to where it rises once again. The wind blows to the south, then turns and harshly rides up to the north. It travels without end upon its moaning circuit. Likewise, all the rivers flow down to the sea, and lend their issue to its vast, dark depths. Withal, the sea is never full; the rivers cease not flowing, whether great or small, but hasten to the sea again, release their substance, and return. And what of man? Do all his pondering and work increase his understanding of this life? Or can they show the meaning of existence? Do they save us from this vanity we stand in? Everything is full of labor. Who can understand it? We can never see enough, or hear enough, or ever do enough to make sense of this life. Thus we are never satisfied, and happiness eludes us. What has been is what will be; and what was done—though it confound, oppress, deceive, or disappoint us—will be done again, to our enjoyment or distress. For there is nothing new beneath the sun, within that wall constructed by the mind of man apart from God. Can anyone insist that anything is new? Or find out something not already done or shown? Since ancient times it has been there, behind the veil of history, waiting to be known. No one remembers former things; nor will the future thank you for the seeds you’ve sown beneath the sun. You may obsess until you die about your legacy, but who will care? Or who for you a tear will spill? As king, and young, I knew not what to do to rule my people well. And so I set my heart to seek out matters wise and true, to learn by wisdom all I could, and let God’s Word illuminate my way—to guide my thinking and my plans. That is, I set my mind to seek the truth of God, and side with Him no matter what, to live under the heavens, not the sun, and to abide there in God’s presence, filled with awe and wonder. Indeed, this is a difficult affair. But God has set us to it, lest we blunder in all our folly, turn aside, and dare the heavens to challenge our presumptive ways. Now I have seen the works done everywhere beneath the sun, the heights of pride, the maze of self-deceit, and all the vanity and lies by which men prosecute their days. It is all folly. But we cannot see the crooked path we walk, because it seems straight to us. Straight, though, it will never be while crookedness and lies define our schemes and set our course. Beneath the sun, we feed on wind, and all our fondest hopes and dreams elude our grasp, and disappoint, and breed despair and anger. What we lack, we can not find; we fail to meet life’s deepest need. So I communed within my heart: “Can man know wisdom, knowing folly? I have gained much wisdom—knowledge, too—more wisdom than all kings who in Jerusalem have reigned before me. I have understood all learning!” Along with this, then, I sought to be trained in folly and in madness. For there were, burning in me, strong desires and lusts, which proved to be my ruin, nearly. All the while, my yearning to gain more wisdom grew. I came to see that this was merely grasping for relief from folly, groping vainly to be free. For in much wisdom, there is much of grief. With knowledge, sorrows break in like a thief. T.M. Moore’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals, and he has published five volumes of verse through his ministry’s imprint, Waxed Tablet Publications. He is Principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, he and his wife, Susie, reside in Essex Junction, VT. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) 15 Responses Peter Hartley October 23, 2019 Very long, consistent with the sorrowful and melancholy tenor of the original, consistently cleverly constructed tercet stanzas in a poem that is consistently brilliant throughout. Very well done indeed! Reply Amy Foreman October 23, 2019 Another T.M. Moore poem in my inbox! What a delight to read these carefully-crafted phrases fashioned into masterful, meaningful, and sublime poetry by the man I’ve come to regard as the George Herbert of our time. “. . . within that wall constructed by the mind/of man apart from God.” –This is beyond good poetry. This is truth. Reply James Tweedie October 23, 2019 T.M. This is, perhaps, more of a paraphrase than a translation, but, like any good paraphrase, it interprets and draws out the truth of the original in new, creative and compelling ways. The original was written as poetry, but in a form that does not translate well into English verse. You have turned the words back into a readily accessible poetic form that is every bit as lovely as the original Hebrew must have sounded to the author’s contemporaries when it was first written. And not only have you re-framed it into verse, but you have done so with a masterful eloquence that is vividly descriptive. For example: The sun comes up each day perpetually; and then it sets, returning like the tides, to where it rises once again. There is beauty here, but, as Amy points out, there is also truth in your words. This combination of truth and beauty not only makes this poetic translation/paraphrase shine, but illuminate as well. Reply David Paul Behrens October 23, 2019 Ecclesiastes is my favorite book in the Old Testament. This is outstanding! Reply C.B. Anderson October 23, 2019 If terza rima was good enough for Dante, then it should be good enough for you, and in this execution of that venerable form you have not come close to shaming yourself. Here: The rivers cease/ not flowing, whether great or small, but hasten to the sea again, release their substance, and return. is brilliant, and I expect much more from you in the future. You are one of the reasons I attentively await every posting here at SCP. Reply T.M. October 24, 2019 Thanks for catching that, C. B. I’ve fixed it: “not flowing, whether they be great or small,” Blessings. Reply T.M. October 24, 2019 All y’all: Thanks for the kind words. I think Ecclesiastes is one of the most important Biblical books for our times. But because it is a difficult book, recasting it in various ways could help to unlock its message to our increasingly secular generation. That, at least, is my hope in this project. Thanks again. Reply David Watt October 24, 2019 Although this is a lengthy poem, the crafting of phrases and well-stated truths held my attention throughout. The concluding couplet could not have been better. Reply T.M. October 24, 2019 Thanks, David. Reply James Sale October 24, 2019 Hi TM, this is a fabulous poem and there are so many beauties in it. Just to mention one, I love your use of enjambement, which you cleverly deploy to catch us and force us to read on: e.g. Do / they save us from this vanity we stand / in? Of course as you may know, I am a big advocate of terza rima and have had three English Cantos published on these pages (and a fourth at The Lowestoft Chronicle: http://lowestoftchronicle.com/issues/issue37/jamessale/). But I am also creating a Dante tribute website that includes poetry, readings, art and music for an event in 2021 (his 700th anniversary). I would love, therefore, to republish this poem on this site: https://englishcantos.home.blog. Obviously, one would credit SCP with first publication. Would you be up for this? It would be helpful to have your email address so I could contact you directly. Thanks. Reply T.M. October 24, 2019 Thanks, James. Of course, I’m a Dante fan, and I’d love to help any way I can. This poem is the first installment of 12 – all of Ecclesiastes. I’ll be giving them to Evan first (to accept or decline), but you can feel free to use any of them you like, without having to ask me each time. I appreciate your encouragement and your contributions to this community. Reply James Sale October 26, 2019 That’s great news TM. And BTW my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org – do contact me directly and I’ll keep you posted as I use your work! Kate Farrell October 26, 2019 This is just awesome… shades of “Psalms/Now” by Brandt/Corita Reply James Sale October 30, 2019 Great news TM – we have now re-posted your wonderful poem – thanks: https://englishcantos.home.blog/the-wider-circle/ Reply T. M. October 30, 2019 Many thanks, James. And Kate. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.