On The Art of Reading eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 241 pages of information about On The Art of Reading.

  Dost thou still hold fast thine integrity? renounce God, and

But Job answered, soothing her: 

  Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh.  What?
  shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not
  receive evil?

So the second trial ends, and Job has sinned not with his lips.

But now comes the third trial, which needs no Council in Heaven to decree it.  Travellers by the mound saw this figure seated there, patient, uncomplaining, an object of awe even to the children who at first mocked him; asked this man’s history; and hearing of it, smote on their breasts, and made a token of it and carried the news into far countries:  until it reached the ears of Job’s three friends, all great tribesmen like himself—­Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  These three made an appointment together to travel and visit Job.  ’And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept.’  Then they went up and sat down opposite him on the ground.  But the majesty of suffering is silent: 

     Here I and sorrows sit;
     Here is my throne, bid kings come bow to it....

No, not a word....  And, with the grave courtesy of Eastern men, they too are silent: 

  So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and
  seven nights, and none spake a word unto him:  for they saw
  that his grief was very great.

The Prologue ends.  The scene is set.  After seven days of silence the real drama opens.


Of the drama itself I shall attempt no analysis, referring you for this to the two books from which I have already quoted.  My purpose being merely to persuade you that this surpassing poem can be studied, and ought to be studied, as literature, I shall content myself with turning it (so to speak) once or twice in my hand and glancing one or two facets at you.

To begin with, then, you will not have failed to notice, in the setting out of the drama, a curious resemblance between “Job” and the “Prometheus” of Aeschylus.  The curtain in each play lifts on a figure solitary, tortured (for no reason that seems good to us) by a higher will which, we are told, is God’s.  The chorus of Sea-nymphs in the opening of the Greek play bears no small resemblance in attitude of mind to job’s three friends.  When job at length breaks the intolerable silence with

  Let the day perish wherein I was born,
  And the night which said, There is a man child conceived.

he uses just such an outburst as Prometheus:  and, as he is answered by his friends, so the Nymphs at once exclaim to Prometheus

     Seest thou not that thou hast sinned?

But at once, for anyone with a sense of comparative literature, is set up a comparison between the persistent West and the persistent East; between the fiery energising rebel and the patient victim.  Of these two, both good, one will dare everything to release mankind from thrall; the other will submit, and justify himself—­mankind too, if it may hap—­by submission.

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On The Art of Reading from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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