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A Hero and Some Other Folks by William A. Quayle

You will misjudge Job if you think him egotist


I

see him sitting, with his gray beard blowing about him like a puff of fog; I hear him when his pitiful voice intones its grief as if it were a chant; I see the pleading in his eyes, and it fills my breast with heart-break. You who love great delineations of passion, what think you of our dramatist's vision of Job? You who count King Lear among the demigods of creative art, what think you of this Lear's older brother? His nature is so deep we can not fling plummet to its bottom. Lear was weak and wrong; but Job, with all his grief upon him, like a cloud upon a mountain's crest--Job has violated no propriety of man or God, so far as we have seen, and his cry fills the desert on whose verge he sits, and clamors like the winds on stormy, winter nights.

Job, misjudged, has the mercy of conscious integrity. Himself rises to his own vindication, a course just and compatible with sincerity and modesty. You will misjudge Job if you think him egotist. He is rather one who knows himself, and feels sure of his purity in motive; has self-respect therefore--a hard thing for a soul to have, and the possession of which is a benediction. To know we meant well, to be able to justify us to ourselves, is next in grace to being justified of God; for next to Him, self is the most exacting master and judge. He feels misjudged, knows these men have misinterpreted him, being deceived by his calamities, and he therefore is thrown on the defensive, and becomes

his own attorney, pleading for his life. "Pray you, my friends, do not misjudge me," is his tearful plea, while they press their cruel conclusions as a phalanx of spears against his naked breast. This conception will clear Job of the blame of being self-righteous. I do not find that in his utterances; but do find sturdy self-respect, and assertion of pure motive and pure action; for his argument proceeds thus: "I know my heart; I know all my purposes; I meant right, and tried to do right. You think me hypocrite. I pray you rectify your judgment, since neither in intent nor yet in execution have I been other than I seemed, and who can bring accusations against my doings? God breaketh me with a tempest, yet will I cry to him, Do not condemn me: show me wherefore thou contendest with me. I call on God to vindicate me, who knoweth my life to the full. Will God break a leaf, driven to and fro by the wind? Though to you, my friends, I seem smitten of God, your logic is wrong. I am not vile. O that I knew where I might find Him! I would order my cause before him, seeing he knows the way that I take." Job is himself confounded by his calamity, so that he does not see clearly; finding no reason why God should afflict him, he being as he is and as he has been, just in purpose; for Job had yet to learn that lesson he has taught us all; namely, that not God, but Satan, sent his disaster. He thought God was sowing ruin, as the rest thought; whereas God was letting Satan work his evil way, while God was to vindicate his servant by an apocalypse of himself. Job, though bewildered as to the meaning of his troubles, asserts his innocency; and as he presents his case, his sky clears, and his voice strengthens, and his argument rises in its eloquence, sonorous as the sea: "Know now that God hath overthrown me. He hath fenced my way, that I can not pass. He hath stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head. His troops come together, and raise up their way against me, and encamp round about my tabernacle. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me. They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight. I called my servant, and he gave me no answer. My breath is strange to my wife, though I entreated for my children's sake of mine own body. Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me. All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me. My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh. Have pity upon me! Why do ye persecute me as God? Have pity upon me!" If in literature there is a more passionate passage to incarnate in words a life wholly bereft and utterly alone, I know not of it. Oedipus Coloneus had Antigone, and King Lear had the king's fool and loyal Kent, and Prometheus had visitors betimes, who brought him balm of sympathy; but Job's servants will not obey him, and little children make sport of him, and his wife turns away from him, and will not hear his sobbing words, nor hear him as he calls the names of their children whom he loved. Tragic Job! Not Samson, blind and jeered at by the Philistine populace in Dagon's temple, is sadder to look upon than Job, Prince of Uz, in the solitude of his bereavement. This old dramatist, as I take it, had himself known some unutterable grief, and out of the wealth of his melancholy recollections has poured tears like rain. He has no master in pathos.


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