No One to Comfort Them

after Ecclesiastes 4

Just look around: Oppression everywhere
exists beneath the sun, and the oppressed
cry vainly for relief, but who will care?

The slaves, the poor, all those who are distressed
and dying, the addicted, and the lost—
who comforts them amid their tears? What rest

have they from all their sorrow? At what cost
do we ignore them? On the side of their
tormentors there is pow’r—as all who’ve crossed

them have discovered. Is there anywhere
relief for those oppressed, or comfort, or
compassion? No. They might as well despair

of life, and praise all those who died before
oppression ruined them underneath the sun.
The living are susceptible to more

oppression; it is better life were done
for them. But better still are those not born
yet to this vanity beneath the sun.

Again, I saw that men who rise each morn
to toil with skill throughout the day, instead
of gratitude for what they do, earn scorn

and envy from their neighbors. Are we bred
to this, or must we learn such vanity
and grasping after wind? The fool his bread

consumes wherever he may find it. He
is loathe to work, pursuing rather ease
and idleness. This is depravity,

and will destroy him. Better we should please
ourselves with little, and contentment know,
than grasp with both hands constantly to seize

as much as possible. This way lies so
much disappointment! Then I saw a man
alone, with no companion, none to go

through life with him, to share his journey and
his burdens—neither son nor brother, friend
nor colleague. Yet he labors—though he can

not tell the reason, nor perceive the end
of all his toil—he labors on to gain
whatever riches he requires to spend

his life consuming things. There is much pain
in working; its rewards are fleeting. They
can never satisfy. You’d think a sane

man would reflect on this, and look away
from things that cannot bring his soul the peace
he longs for, to pursue a better day,

a better life. But very few will cease
from all this foolishness and vanity.
Thus disappointment and despair increase.

Two better are than one, in comity.
Because they have a good reward for all
their labor, and if one of them should be

afflicted, or some tragedy befall
him, then his friend can lift him up. But woe
to him who has no friend whom he can call

on when disaster strikes, no one to go
to, or to help him get back on his feet.
He’s all alone, and likely not to know

relief. If two lie down together, sweet
their comfort and their warmth; but how can one
be warm alone? And two friends can defeat

a foe whom one alone would be undone
by. Three friends make an even stronger cord.
And do you see some poor, wise youth, the son

of some nobody? Listen to his word,
for he is better than the magistrate
who will not listen, and who bears the sword

with whim and fancy more than love. Of late
come out of prison, he is crowned the king.
Though poor at birth, he is the head of state,

and what a sorry state that king will bring
his people to, those sorry people, all
who choose to walk beneath the sun, and sing

the praise of things and fun. At that king’s fall
a second youth rose up to take his throne.
He ruled the multitudes, the great and small,

yet when he died, none claimed him as their own,
and he was gone, like wind through deserts blown.

 

 

T.M. and Susie Moore make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont. He is Principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, and the author of 8 books of poetry. He and Susie have collaborated on more than 30 books, which may be found, together with their many other writings and resources, including the daily teaching letter Scriptorium, at www.ailbe.org.


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6 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    Perfect for this season. Excellent and thought-provoking ! Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Mike Bryant

    This conveys the feel and meaning of Ecclesiastes perfectly. The enjambment makes the reading of it flow smoothly as it captures the times even as the original did. Really beautiful.

    Reply
  3. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    This admirably crafted work is an apt and much needed poetic depiction of the Scriptures that brings to the fore the dilemma of current day mayhem. Thank you for this wisely considered and beautifully interpreted piece. It’s a perfect message for Easter.

    Reply
  4. James Tweedie

    The rendering of each successive chapter seems smoother and more elegant than those that preceded it. I look forward to Chapter 5.

    PS. Good luck with dealing with the repetitious word “sun.” In prose, or in poetry it works well as a refrain. Far more difficult in a terza rima. So far, so good!

    Reply
  5. Jeff Kemper

    It was with great joy that I read your take on Ec 4. Well done, T.M.! Ecclesiastes is my favorite biblical book. After recasting 30 or so biblical passages as poems, I just completed my first one from Ecclesiastes (ch 9).

    Reply

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