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Chapter I.4141 [The wise benevolence of our author is more apparent than his critical skill. No book more likely to puzzle a pagan inquirer than this: so the metaphrase gives it meaning and consistency; but, over and over again, not Solomon’s meaning, I am persuaded.]
These words speaketh Solomon, the son of David the king and prophet, to the whole Church of God, a prince most honoured, and a prophet most wise above all men. How vain and fruitless are the affairs of men, and all pursuits that occupy man! For there is not one who can tell of any profit attaching to those things which men who creep on earth strive by body and soul to attain to, in servitude all the while to what is transient, and undesirous of considering aught heavenly with the noble eye of the soul. And the life of men weareth away, as day by day, and in the periods of hours and years, and the determinate courses of the sun, some are ever coming, and others passing away. And the matter is like the transit of torrents as they fall into the measureless deep of the sea with a mighty noise. And all things that have been constituted by God for the sake of men abide the same: as, for instance, that man is born of earth, and departs to earth again; that the earth itself continues stable; that the sun accomplishes its circuit about it perfectly, and rolls round to the same mark again; and that the winds4242 τὰ πνεύματα, for which some propose ῥεύματα, streams, as the ἄνεμοι are mentioned in their own place immediately. in like manner, and the mighty rivers which flow into the sea, and the breezes that beat upon it, all act without forcing it to pass beyond its limits, and without themselves also violating their appointed laws. And these things, indeed, as bearing upon the good of this life of ours, are established thus fittingly. But those things which are of men’s devising, whether words or deeds, have no measure. And there is a plenteous multitude of words, but there is no profit from random and foolish talking. But the race of men is naturally insatiate in its thirst both for speaking and for hearing what is spoken; and it is man’s habit, too, to desire to look with idle eyes on all that happens. What can occur afterwards, or what can be wrought by men which has not been done already? What new thing is there worthy of mention, of which there has never yet been experience? For I think there is nothing which one may call new, or which, on considering it, one shall discover to be strange or unknown to those of old. But as former things are buried in oblivion, so also things that are now subsistent will in the course of time vanish utterly from the knowledge of those who shall come after us. And I speak not these things unadvisedly, as acting now the preacher.4343 νῦν ἐκκλησιάςων. But all these things were carefully pondered by me when entrusted with the kingdom of the Hebrews in Jerusalem. And I examined diligently, and considered discreetly, the nature of all that is on earth, and I perceived it to be most various;4444 ποικιλωτάτην. and I saw that to man it is given to labour upon earth, ever carried about by all different occasions of toil, and with no result of his work. And all things here below are full of the spirit of strangeness and abomination, so that it is not possible for one to retrieve them now; nay, rather it is not possible for one at all to conceive what utter vanity4545 ἀτοπία has taken possession of all human affairs. For once on a time I communed with myself, and thought that then I was wiser in this than all that were before me, and I was expert in understanding parables and the natures of things. But I learned that I gave myself to such pursuits to no purpose, and that if wisdom follows knowledge, so troubles attend on wisdom.
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