At once this difference is seen to give a difference of form to the drama. Our poem is purely static. Some critics can detect little individuality in Job’s three friends, to distinguish them. For my part I find Eliphaz more of a personage than the other two; grander in the volume of his mind, securer in wisdom; as I find Zophar rather noticeably a mean-minded greybeard, and Bildad a man of the stand-no-nonsense kind. But, to tell the truth, I prefer not to search for individuality in these men: I prefer to see them as three figures with eyes of stone almost expressionless. For in truth they are the conventions, all through,—the orthodox men—addressing Job, the reality; and their words come to this:
Thou sufferest, therefore
must have sinned.
All suffering is, must be a judgment upon sin.
Else God is not righteous.
They are statuesque, as the drama is static. The speeches follow one another, rising and falling, in rise and fall magnificently and deliberately eloquent. Not a limb is seen to move, unless it be when job half rises from the dust in sudden scorn of their conventions:
No doubt but ye
are the people,
And wisdom shall die with you!
Will ye speak unrighteously
And talk deceitfully for him?
Will ye respect his person?
Will ye contend for God?
Yet—so great is this man, who has not renounced and will not renounce God, that still and ever he clamours for more knowledge of Him. Still getting no answer, he lifts up his hands and calls the great Oath of Clearance; in effect ’If I have loved gold overmuch, hated mine enemy, refused the stranger my tent, truckled to public opinion’:
If my land cry out against me,
And the furrows thereof weep together;
If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money,
Or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life:
Let thistles grow instead of wheat,
And cockle instead of barley.
With a slow gesture he covers his face:
The words of Job are ended.
They are ended: even though at this point (when the debate seems to be closed) a young Aramaean Arab, Elihu, who has been loitering around and listening to the controversy, bursts in and delivers his young red-hot opinions. They are violent, and at the same time quite raw and priggish. Job troubles not to answer: the others keep a chilling silence. But while this young man rants, pointing skyward now and again, we see, we feel—it is most wonderfully conveyed—as clearly as if indicated by successive stage-directions, a terrific thunder-storm gathering; a thunder-storm with a whirlwind. It gathers; it is upon them; it darkens them with dread until even the words of Elihu dry on his lips:
If a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up.