Rendering (and riffing on) Ecclesiastes

by Josh Yarden


There is nothing new under the sun
an age passes an age arrives
the earth forever endures

Nothing is ever quite as it was
adaptation the only constant
sustained in a dynamic universe

The eastern sun aspires
toward the western sky
the place where it will rise again

What does a person gain
endeavoring under the sun:
time for everything under the skies

So goes the wisdom of a Kohelet
recollecting evanescent moments
before memories scatter to the breeze

Vapor of vapors, all is vapor
according to the convener in Jerusalem
assembler of knowledge, gatherer of insight

The very essence of evanescence:
all human endeavor is fleeting
as a wisp of misty breath

All streams lead to the sea, yet the sea does not fill up
vapor rises, clouds condense, the rains come down
streams lead to their origins to well up again, and again

Rivers teem with life
and whatever else we pour in
not grasping what we wash away

Generation and re-generation
evolution offers opportunity
to rework and reshape

Wealth and power will eventually vanish
but a deed done, as an uttered word
cannot be withdrawn

Crooked cannot be justified
that which is missing cannot be taken into account
with knowledge comes pain that pleasure can assuage but not erase

Streams swirl with our every act
our deeds whirl in the winds
passing and arriving again and again

Toward the south then shifting north
blows the winding wind
catch a gust and travel against the stream

the eye is never satisfied
the ear is never full

change is the way of time
nothing new under the sun

Tread lightly in the world
listen closely, instead of offering fools' prayers
… speaking as if they know no evil

* The Prophet (1974) Scultpted by Jacob Lipkin. On the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia.

Photo credit: Barbara (Petrick) Johnson