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Monday, 16 March 2009

Hitting the nail on the head

The Bible is such a wonderful mix of poetry and hard-headed truth. Ecclesiastes chapter 12 is a prime example. I wanted to post this chapter in the Authorised (King James) Version, for its poetry and the way it describes old age through a series of clues; but the version I found first was this, from The Message. It soft-pedals the poetry, but makes very clear what it means. Read this one, and then enjoy the AV.

Honour and enjoy your Creator while you're still young,
Before the years take their toll and your vigour wanes,
Before your vision dims and the world blurs
And the winter years keep you close to the fire.

In old age, your body no longer serves you so well.
Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen.
The shades are pulled down on the world.
You can't come and go at will. Things grind to a halt.
The hum of the household fades away.
You are wakened now by bird-song.
Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past.
Even a stroll down the road has its terrors.
Your hair turns apple-blossom white,
Adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body.
Yes, you're well on your way to eternal rest,
While your friends make plans for your funeral.

Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.
And now the old version. I remember listening to this on the wireless with Dad one Sunday evening in Blackheath. There was a regular Christian programme with a Canadian presenter who had a beautiful reading voice, and Dad and I loved listening. Do notice 'broken' coming 3 times like hammer blows near the end of this. Another writer might have looked for a different word each time; this version is so powerful.
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;
While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

My Father wrote a short commentary on this passage in his book on old age. See it here.

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