The Drama of Job, by William A. Quayle
The sun monopolizes the sky. Stars do not shine by day, not because
they have lost their luster, but because the sun owns the heavens, and
erases them as the tide erases footprints from the sands. In similar
fashion a main truth monopolizes attention to the exclusion of
subordinate truths. The Bible's main truth is its spiritual
significancy, containing those ethical teachings which have
revolutionized this world, and which are to be redemptive in all ages
yet to come. The Bible, as God's Book for man's reading and
redemption, has proven so amazing as a moral force, illuminating the
mind; purifying the heart; freeing and firing the imagination; attuning
life itself to melody; peopling history with new ideas; seeding
continents with Magna Chartas of personal and political liberties;
making for religious toleration; creating a new ideal of manhood and
womanhood; presenting, in brief biographical sketches, perfect pictures
of such men as the world has seen too few of; and portraying Christ,
whose face once seen can never be forgotten, but casts all other faces
and figures into shadow, leaving Him solitary, significant,
sublime,—this is the Bible. So men have conceived the Scriptures as a
magazine of moral might; and the conception has not been amiss. This
is the Bible's chief merit and superior function, and this glory has
blinded us to lesser glories, which, had they existed in any other
literature, would have stung men to surprise, admiration, and delight.
"The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" is a pleasure simply as an expression of
sensuous delight set to music. The poem is a bit of careless laughter,
ringing glad and free as if it were a child's, and passing suddenly to
a child's tears and sobbing. This solitary virtue has breathed into
the Rubaiyat life. The Bible is a series of books bound in a single
volume, because all relate to a single theme: history, biography,
letters, proverbial philosophy, pure idyls, lofty eloquence, elegiac
poetry, ethics, legal codes, memorabilia, commentaries on campaigns
more influential on the world's destiny than Caesar's, epic poetry,
lyrics, and a sublime drama. The Bible is not a book, but a library;
not a literary effort, but a literature. It sums up the literature of
the Hebrew race, aside from which that race produced nothing literary
worthy of perpetuation. One lofty theme stung them to genius, their
mission and literature converging in Christ and there ending. The
Bible as literature marks the book as unique as a literary fact as it
is as a religious fact; in either, standing solitary. That lovers of
literature have passed these surprising literary merits by with
comparative inattention is attributable, doubtless, to the
over-shadowing moral majesty of the volume. The larger obscured the
lesser glory. But, after all, can we feel other than shame in
recalling how our college curricula contain the masterpieces of Greek,
Latin, English, and German literature, and find no niche for the Bible,
superior to all in moral elevation and literary charm and inspiration?
"Ruth" is easily the superior of "Paul and Virginia" or "Vicar of
Wakefield." "Lamentations" is as noble an elegy as sorrow has set to
words; the Gospels are not surpassed by Boswell's "Johnson" in power of
recreating the subject of the biography; the Psalms sing themselves
without aid of harp or organ; "The Acts" is a history taking rank with
Thucydides; and Job is the sublimest drama ever penned. If these
encomiums are high, they must not be deemed extravagant, rather the
necessary eulogy of truth.
What are the sublimest poems of universal literature? Let this stand
as a tentative reply: Aeschylus's "Prometheus Bound," Dante's "Divine
Comedy," Shakespeare's "Hamlet," Milton's "Paradise Lost," and Job,
author unknown. To rank as a sublime production, theme and treatment
must both be sublime, and the poem must be of dignified length.
Prometheus has a Titan for subject; has magnanimity for occasion; has
suffering, on account of his philanthropy, as tragic element; and the
barren crags of Caucasus as theater; and the style is the loftiest of
Aeschylus, sublimest of Greek dramatists. Perhaps "Oedipus Coloneus"
is nearest approach among Greek tragedies to the elevation of
"Prometheus Bound," and Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound" has much of the
Greek sublimity and more than the Greek frigidity. Dante is nearest
neighbor to Aeschylus, though fifteen hundred years removed, and the
"Divine Comedy" has all elements of sublimity. The time is eternal.
The havoc of sin, the might of Christ, the freedom of the human spirit,
the righteousness of God, the fate of souls, are materials out of which
sublimer cathedral should be built than ever Gothic Christians wrought
in poetry of stone. "Hamlet" is the sublimity of a soul fighting,
single-handed, with innumerable foes, and dying—slain, but undefeated.
"Paradise Lost" might easily be mistaken for the deep organ music of a
stormy ocean, so matchless and sublime the melody. In theme, epic; in
treatment, epic; in termination, tragic,—which melts into holy hope
and radiant promise as a night of storm and fearful darkness melts into
the light and glory of the dawn and sunrise when the sky is fair. I
can hear and see this blind old Puritan, chanting the drama of a lost
cause as a David lamenting for his Absalom dead. Milton is sublime in
history, misfortune, range of ideas, warrior strength, and prowess to
fight and die undaunted. Not even his darkness makes him sob more than
a moment. A rebellion in heaven, a war in consequence; the flaming
legions of the skies led by Christ, God's Son; a conflict, whose
clangor fills the vaulted skies in heaven with reverberating thunders,
ending in defeat for evil which makes all Waterloos insignificant; the
fall of Satanic legions from the thrones which once were theirs, when,
with dolorous cry, they stumbled into hell; the counterplot of Lucifer;
the voyage across the wastes "of chaos and old night;" the horrid birth
of Sin; the apocalypse of Sin and Death in Eden; and the Promise, whose
pierced hand, held out, saved from utter ruin those who,
"Hand in hand with wandering steps and slow,
Through Eden took their solitary way."
Musician, instrument, and oratorio,—all sublime. "Last named, though
first written, is the drama of Job, in which all things conspire to
lift the argument into sublimity. Are seas in tempests sublime? What
are they, matched with Job's stormy soul? Are thunders reverberating
among mountains sublime? What are they when God's voice makes
interrogatory? But above all, God walks into the drama as his right is
to walk into human life; and God's appearance, whether at Sinai or
Calvary, or in the weary watches of some heart's night of pain, makes
mountain and hour and heart sublime.
Thomas Carlyle once, reading at prayers in a friend's house from the
Book of Job, became oblivious to surroundings, and read on and on, till
one by one the listeners arose and slipped out in silence, leaving the
rapt reader alone, he holding on his solitary way until the last
strophe fell from the reader's lips; nor can we wonder at him, for such
must be the disposition of every thoughtful peruser of Job. As we will
not care to lay Hamlet down till Fortinbras is taking Hamlet, with
regal honors, from the scene, so we cling to Job till we see light
break through the clouds, and the storm vanish, and the thunder cease.
Job is a prince, old, rich, fortunate, benevolent, and good. Life has
dealt kindly with him, and looking at his face you would not, from his
wrinkles, guess his years. The great honor him; the good trust him;
the poor, in his bounty find plenty; no blessing has failed him, so
that his name is a synonym of good fortune,—such a man is chief person
of this drama, written by some unknown genius. Singular, is it not,
that this voice, from an antiquity remoter than literature can
duplicate, should be anonymous? Not all commodities have the firm's
name upon them. Some of the world's noblest thoughts are entailed on
the generations, they not knowing whence they sprang. He who speaks a
great word is not always conscious it is great. We are often hidden
from ourselves. But our joy is, some nameless poet has made Job chief
actor in the drama of a good man's life. "The steps of a good man are
ordered of the Lord," the Scriptures say, and such a man was Job; and
the theme of this drama is, how shall a good man behave under
circumstances ruinously perverse, and what shall be his fate? The
theme has rare attraction, and appeals to us as a home message, dear to
our heart as a fond word left us by a departing friend.
The drama has prologue, dialogue, and epilogue. The actors are Job's
friends, Job's self, Satan, and God.
Temporarily, as an object lesson to children in the moral kindergarten,
God gave prosperity under the Mosaic code as proof of piety. This
régime was a brief temporality, God not dealing in giving visible
rewards to goodness, else righteousness would become a matter of
merchandise, being quotable in Dun's. When we reason of righteousness,
that the good are blest seems a necessary truth; yet they do not appear
so. They are afflicted as others, "the rain falls on the just and the
unjust;" nay, more, the wicked even seem favored; "he is not in trouble
as other men;" prosperity smiles on him, like a woman on her favored
lover; and the spirit cries out involuntarily, as if thrust through by
an angry sword, "How can these things be?" And this bitter cry, wrung
from the suffering good man, is theme for the drama of Job; and in this
stands solitary as it stands sublime.
A first quality of greatness in a literary production is, that it deals
with some universal truth. "How can good men suffer if God be good?"
How pressingly important and importunate this question is! "Does
goodness pay?" is the commercial putting of the question. Such being
the meaning of Job, how the poem thrusts home, and how modern and
personal is it become! When conceived as the drama of a good man's
life, every phase of the discussion becomes apparently just. Nothing
is omitted and nothing is out of place.
Job sits in the sunshine of prosperity. Not a cloud drifts across his
sky, when, without word of warning, a night of storm crushes along his
world, destroys herds and servants, reduces his habitations to ruins,
slays his children, leaves himself in poverty, a mourner at the funeral
of all he loved. Then his world begins to wonder at him; then distrust
him, as if he were evil; his glory is eclipsed, as it would seem,
forever; and, as if not content at the havoc of the man's hopes and
prosperity and joy, misfortune follows him with disease; grievous
plagues seize him, making days and nights one sleepless pain; and his
wife, who should have been his stay and help, as most women are,
became, instead of a solace and blessing, querulous, crying, like a
virago, shrilly, "Curse God, and die!" Job opens with tragedy; Lear,
and Julius Caesar, and Othello, and Macbeth, and Hamlet, close with
tragedy. Job's ruin is swift and immediate. He has had no time to
prepare him for the shock. He was listening for laughter, and he hears
a sob. You can fairly hear the ruin, crashing like falling towers
about this Prince of Uz; and you must hear, it you are not stone-deaf,
the pant of the bleeding runner, who half runs, half falls into his
master's presence, gasping, "Job, Prince Job, my master—ruin! ruin!
ruin! Thy—herds—and thy servants—ruin—alas! Thy herds are
taken—and thy servants slain—and—I—only—I—am—left;" and ere his
story is panted forth, another comes, weary with the race, and gasps,
"Thy flocks—are slain—with fire—from heaven—and thy servants—with
them—and I—alone—am—am—" when another breathless runner breaks
that story off, crying, "Thy sons—and daughters—" and Job turns his
pale face, and fairly shrieks, "My sons and daughters—what? Say on!"
"Thy sons and daughters were feasting—and—the storm swept
through—the—sky, and crushed the house—and slew—thy
daughters—and—thy—sons—and I, a servant, I only, am
escaped—alone—to tell thee;" and Job wept aloud, and his grief
possesses him, as a storm the sea—and was very pitiful—and he fell on
his face, and worshiped! The apocalypse of this catastrophe is genius
of the most splendid order. Tragedy has come! But Job rises above
tragedy, for he worshiped.
In his "Talks on the Study of Literature," Arlo Bates, in discussing
Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg oration, instancing this sentence, "We
here highly resolve that those dead shall not have died in vain," says,
"The phrase is one of the most superb in American literature, and what
makes it so is the word 'highly,' the adverb being the last of which an
ordinary mind would have thought in this connection, and yet, once
spoken, it is the inevitable and superb word." To all this I agree
with eagerness; but submit that, in this phrase from Job, "I only am
escaped alone to tell thee," the word "alone" is as magical and
wonderful; and I think the author of this drama may well be claimed as
poet laureate of that far-off, dateless time.
And the good man's goodness availed him nothing? What are we to think
of Job now? Either a good man is afflicted, and perhaps of God, or Job
has been a cunning fraud, his life one long hypocrisy, his age a gray
deception. Which? Here lies the strategic quality in the drama. The
three friends are firmly persuaded that Job is unrighteous and his sin
has found him out. His dissimulation, though it has deceived man, has
not deceived God. Such their pitiless reasoning; and the more blind
they are, the more they argue, as is usual; for in argument, men
convince themselves, though they make no other converts. In Job's
calamity, all winds blow against him, as with one rowing shoreward on
the sea, when tides draw out toward the deep and winds blow a gale off
shore out to the night; and they blow against Job, because he is not
what he once was. His life, once comedy, glad or wild with laughter
according to the day, is now tragedy, with white face and bleeding
wounds, and voice a moan, like autumn winds. Alas! great prince, thy
tragedy is come! Tragedy; but God did not commission it. This drama
does not misrepresent God, as many a poem and many a sufferer do.
Satan—this drama says—Satan sent this ruin. God has not seared this
man's flesh with the white heats of lightning, nor brought him into
penury nor suspicion, nor made his heart widowed. God is dispenser of
good, not evil; for while an argument is not to be enforced against
punitive justice, seeing justice is a necessity of goodness, yet we are
to affirm that the notion of God slaying Job's children (or anybody's
children, so far as that runs), or blotting out his prosperity, is
obnoxious to reason and to heart. This drama perpetrates no such
blunder. Satan sent these disasters; for with him is evil purpose.
The very nobility of Job stings him to enmity and madness; for iniquity
is his delight, and ruin his vocation and pleasure. A power without
man working evil is consonant with history and experience, and to
suppose this power a person rather than an influence is as rational as
to suppose God not a barren principle, but a Person, fertile in love
and might and righteousness. In the drama of Job, God is not smirched.
He is not Hurter, but Helper. In "Prometheus Bound," Zeus is tyrant;
in Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound," Zeus is tyrant run mad. In Job, God
is majesty enthroned; thoughtful, interested, loving; permitting, not
administering evil; hearing and heeding a bewildered man's cry, and
coming to his rescue, like as some gracious emancipator comes, to break
down prison doors and set wronged prisoners free. In Job, God is not
aspersed, a thing so easy to do in literature and so often done. Here
is no dubious biography, where God is raining disaster instead of
mercies. To misrepresent God seems to me a high crime and
misdemeanor—nay, the high crime and misdemeanor; because on the
righteousness of God hangs the righteousness of the moral system
embracing all souls everywhere, and to misconceive or misinterpret God,
sins against the highest interests of the world, since life never rises
higher than the divinity it conceives and worships. The permissive
element in Divine administration is here clearly distinguished.
Complex the system is, and not sum-totally intelligible as yet, though
we may, and do, get hints of vision, as one catches through the thick
ranks of forest-trees occasional glimpses of sky-line, where room is
made by a gash in the ranks of woods, and the open looks in like some
one standing outside a window with face toward us.
This drama of goodness gives words and form to our perplexity. How can
a good life have no visible favors? How are we to explain prosperity
coming to a man besotted with every vice and repugnant to our souls,
while beside him, with heart aromatic of good as spice-groves with
their odors, with hands clean from iniquity as those of a little child,
with eyes calm and watching for the advent of God and an opportunity to
help men,—and calamities bark at his door, like famine-crazed,
ravenous wolves at the shepherd's hut; and pestilence bears his babes
from his bosom to the grave; and calumny smirches his reputation; and
his business ventures are shipwrecked in sight of the harbor; and his
wife lies on a bed of pain, terrible as an inquisitor's rack; penury
frays his garments, and steals his home and goods, and snatches even
the crust from his table,—and God has forgotten goodness? Here is no
parable, but a picture our eyes have seen as we have stumbled from a
garret, blinded by our tears as if some wild rain dashed in our faces.
God does not care; more, God's lightnings sear the eyeballs of virtue,
tall and fair as angelhood,—this is our agonized estimate betimes, and
we are troubled lest, unwittingly and unwillingly, we malign God. To
an explanation of this fiery tangle of adversity the drama of Job sets
itself. How prodigious the task!
But the poem breathes perfume in our faces as we approach until we
think we neighbor with honeysuckle blooms. What hinders to catch the
fragrance for a moment ere we enter this room of suffering lying a step
beyond? "Job" has beauty. "Job" has bewildering beauty. This is no
hasty word, rather deliberate and sincere. An anthology from Job would
be ample material for an article. All through the poem, thoughts flash
into beauty as dewdrops on morning flowers flash into amethyst, and
ruby, and diamond, and all manner of precious stones. In reading it,
imagination is always on wing, like humming-birds above the flowers.
You may find similes that haunt you like the sound of falling water,
and breathe the breath of surest poetry in your face.
"Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark:
Let it look for light, but have none;
Neither let it behold the eyelids of the morning."
"There the wicked cease from troubling,
And the weary are at rest,"—
a beautiful, thought, which Tennyson has put bodily into his "Queen of
the May," where, as here, the words sob like a child sobbing itself to
sleep when its mother is dead and missed.
"There the prisoners are at ease together;
They hear not the voice of the taskmaster."
And to prisoners of hope, how healing such words are, and full of balm!
But to us who have known not the blinding grief of prisoners, the
poetry of the thought is "rainy sweet."
"My roarings are poured out like water."
"Men which are crushed before the moth!"
"For man is born unto trouble
As the sparks to fly upward."
"The counsel of the froward is carried headlong:
They meet with darkness in the daytime,
And grope at noonday as in the night."
"For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field,
And the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee;
And thou shalt know that thy tent is in peace."
Can one recall a description of peace more searching and ample, not to
say fraught with more tender suggestion?
"My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook,
As the channel of brooks that pass away."
For my part, I know no cry that paints pain with surer pathos than a
passage now to be quoted.
I see and hear the lonely sufferer, and watch beside his bed as if to
subdue his pain.
"Is there not warfare to man upon the earth?
Are not his days like the days of a hireling?
As a servant that earnestly desireth the shadow,
And as a hireling that looketh for his wages?
So am I made to possess months of vanity,
And wearisome nights are appointed to me.
When I lie down, I say,
When shall I arise? But the night is long;
And I am full of tossings to and fro until the dawning of the day.
My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle,
And are spent without hope."
"I would not live alway:
Let me alone; for my days are vanity."
In a passage now to be adduced is sublimity passing the sublimity of
Milton the sublime:
"God, which removeth the mountains, and they know it not
When he overturneth them in his anger;
Which shaketh the earth out of her place,
And the pillars thereof tremble;
Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not;
And sealeth up the stars;
Which alone stretcheth out the heavens,
And treadeth upon the waves of the sea;
Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and the Pleiades,
And the chambers of the South;
Which doeth great things, past finding out;
Yea, marvelous things without number:
He breaketh me with a tempest."
Before words like these one may well stand dumb, with the finger of
silence on the lips. Hear Job wail:
"Now my days are swifter than a post:
They are passed away as the swift ships,
As the eagle that swoopeth on the prey,
My soul is weary of my life."
"Thou shalt forget thy misery:
Thou shalt remember it as waters that are passed away."
"He poureth contempt upon princes,
And looseth the belt of the strong;
He discovereth deep things out of darkness,
And bringeth out to light the shadow of death."
This "bringeth out to light the shadow of death" appears to me as bold
and transfiguring a figure as is to be found in literature. It is
"They grope in the dark without light,
And he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man."
"Wilt thou harass a driven leaf,
And wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?"
"I am like a garment that is moth-eaten."
"He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down;
He fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not."
"He breaketh me with breach upon breach;
He runneth upon me like a giant."
"Aforetime I was as a tabret."
"His strength shall be hunger-bitten,
And calamity shall be ready at his side."
"My purposes are broken off."
"His remembrance shall perish from the earth,
And he shall have no name in the street."
"Ye break me in pieces with words."
How vigorously descriptive this is of what many a man has endured from
hammering speech of violent men!
"They waited for me as for the rain."
"He overturneth the mountains by the roots."
"Out of the north cometh golden splendor."
"God hath upon him terrible majesty."
"Deck thyself now with excellency and dignity;
And array thyself with honor and majesty."
Has not this putting all the strength and beauty of a Shakespearean
couplet? Shakespeare uses such figures as this often, and in them he
is his greater self. His is the splendor of imagination and clearness
of vision of a prince of poets. Time hastes. This task is decoying.
To cease is a hardship; for "Job" lends itself with such wealth to
these nobler passages as to urge on our quest. Whole chapters are
poems, rich as if carven on blocks of solid gold. They blaze with
splendor. But the drama bears on its way like an invading army, and
will not wait.
Disaster has overtaken a good man with its utter demolition; but, as
has been shown, the prologue of the drama settles the paternity of the
disaster. Evils come, but not necessarily from God. In a complex
moral system, God has found it good to administer by general rather
than by special laws, and their operation does not work exact justice
to either wickedness or purity. God's administration being an eternal
one, he dares take scope to bring rewards to goodness and to evil. God
does not need to haste. He has eternity, and dares therefore be
pacific and not perturbed. Haste savors of lack in time. God must not
haste. That he could pour swift retribution on the head of offending
men, we dare not doubt. That he does not is patent. Another scene is
plainly the purpose of God. He has a scene behind a scene. If this
world were an end, there is rank and unforgivable injustice done. Men
have not been dealt fairly with, and may, with legitimacy, make
acrimonious reply; but we are clearly taught that this world is a stage
for the display of character, not for its reward, and the next scene
will be for the reward of character, and not for its display. God will
recompense, but we are not told God does recompense. Such is the lofty
argument of the drama, and may be named as major theme.
Prince Job, smitten from his throne of prosperity and influence into a
pit of ignominy, in his abasement cries, "Wherefore do the wicked live,
become old, yea, are mighty in power?" And in his conscious integrity
he might well shrill a cry to his own breaking heart. Job is sure
(some things calamity reveals) integrity is not awarded according to
its character and worth, while his three friends see in Job's downfall
a disclosure of his wickedness. They urge him to repent. They think
there can be no arguing against doom. God has smitten him for his
sins,—this they all agree, and say no other thing. Poor Job! His
friends consider his hypocrisy proven, and his wife has become
foreigner to him in his day of disaster; disease climaxes his
calamities, and he half says, half moans: "When I lie down, I say, When
shall I arise and the night be gone? and I am full of turnings to and
fro until the dawning of the day. My days are swifter than a weaver's
shuttle, and are spent without hope. I will speak in the anguish of my
spirit. I will confess the bitterness of my soul." Surely his
affliction breaks like some desperate sea, and he is as a sailor hurled
on jagged rocks, bleeding, half-drowned, shivering cold, and again the
storm-waves leap like mad tigers at his throat, and the sailor scarce
knows well how to beat one stroke more against the sea. This is Job.
He is bewildered. His first cry is as of one whose reason staggers.
His face, his voice, his words—all are unnatural. To hear, I would
not know nor think this was Prince Job. Strangely, sadly, terribly
changed he is when he cries: "Let the day perish wherein I was born.
Let that day be darkness. Let darkness and the shadow of death stain
it. Let the blackness of the day terrify it. As for that night, let
darkness seize upon it. Let it not be joined unto the days of the
year. Let it not come into the number of the months. Lo, let that
night be solitary; let no joyful voice come therein. Let the stars of
the twilight thereof be dark; let it look for light, but have none;
neither let it see the dawning of the day." "Wherefore is light given
to him that is in misery; and life unto the bitter in soul, which long
for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid
treasures; which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find
the grave? For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me. I
was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble
came." Alas, Prince Job, your voice is a-sob with tears; and we had
not known it was he! But did grief ever tell its beads with deeper
music? Has not this bankrupt prince given sorrow words forever? His
pain and grief are unutterable in sadness, yet is he not alone.
Multitudes have taken up his lament. There is no pathos deeper than
his, "digging for death more than for hid treasures." I fear Job's
grief unmans him, and he hath gone mad with Lear. Pray, think you he
is not as passionate, gray Lear, mad as the stormy night? It seems so,
but is not so. He is baffled. He is a good man, but blinded for a
moment, as a lightning-flash stupifies the sight. His cry is the cry
wrung from the white lips of pain through the ages. We can not blame
him, but only be pitiful to him. His disasters are so varied and so
terrible; but we feel sure of him, and if he have lost footing and
sight, 't will not be for long.
But there he sits in ashes, fit to make marble weep; and his three
friends—stately, aged, gray, friends of many years—come to comfort
him; for which service he has need, sore need. There are times when a
heart is hungry for tenderness, when a word of love would be a gift of
God, when a touch of some tender hand would be a consolation wide as
heaven; and such a word and hand had melted Job to tears, and his tears
would have done him good, as prayer does. Sometimes tears clear the
throat and heart of sobs that choke. But these men were inquisitors
rather than comforters; they were philosophers, when they ought to have
been men. They sat in silence seven days, but should have maintained
their quiet. These men lacked imagination, which is a fatal omission
from character; for they who came to comfort, became polemic, pitiless,
belligerent, and their voices sound metallic. If a child had crept
toward the afflicted prince, and had reached out a pitiful hand, and,
with childish treble, had said, "Poor Job; poor Job!" that word had
salved his wounds, and helped him through his morass of pain and fear
and doubt. But instead, his friend Eliphaz hectors his pain by saying,
in stately fashion, "Thy words have upholden him that was failing, and
thou hast strengthened the feeble knees; but now it has come upon thee,
and thou faintest." Shame, Eliphaz! What a bungler! A child had
known better. What ails you? Do you not know this man needs
tenderness, and not lectures and disquisitions in moralities? Can you
not see his heart is breaking, and his eyes turn to you as if he were
watching for the coming of some succor infinite? Have you no balm with
fragrance? But he hears us not, or heeds us not, but measures out his
periods as if he were orator at some state occasion: "Behold, happy is
the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening
of the Almighty. Lo, this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and
know thou it for thy good." Pray, is this friend mad, or foe, or fool,
that he knows no better than to pour contempt on distress? Will not a
foe, even, have pity on an enemy wounded and bleeding and prostrate in
the dust? But this man thinks he has a mission to teach an overthrown
prince a lesson, harsh, cold, unrelenting, lacking sentiment. Job's
pitiful affliction is enough to lift such a man into pity. No, no; he
urges his lesson, like some dull schoolmaster who will instruct his
pupil while he knows him dying.
Job's broken voice calls, "O that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and
my calamity laid in the balances together. Is my strength the strength
of stones, or is my flesh brass? I will speak in the anguish of my
spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. So that my soul
chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life. I loathe it; I
would not live alway; for my days are vanity. To him that is
afflicted, pity should be shewn from his friend." And to this pitiful
appeal for considerate judgment, and for a word or look of compassion,
another friend finds answer, with cruelty like the touch of winter on
an ill-clad child: "If thou wouldst seek unto God betimes, and make thy
supplication to the Almighty; if thou wert pure and upright; surely now
he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness
prosperous." What winter wind is bitter and biting as these words?
Job's friends now are his worst calamities. They are thrusting into
his naked and diseased flesh a cruel spear, and into his heart a sword.
Are these men clad in steel that they are so impervious to pity? And
yet, if we pause to consider, this dramatist has not spoken rashly nor
unnaturally; for we can recall that often, often, when the window-panes
of a life are smoky with the breath of suffering, just such criticisms
as these are offered voluminously. We are hard folks. There seems a
strain of cruelty in our blood which sometimes gloats over suffering as
at a carnival. Were these men vultures, that wait to watch with joy a
wounded soldier die? Of what is our nature builded, that we are cruel
as the unreasoning beasts? These harsh friends are voices from our own
pitiless hearts, and ought to make us afraid.
There are three friends in number, but there is one voice and two
echoes,—three men debating with one moaning sufferer, and each saying
the same thing. Had only one of them been present, all the three said
had been spoken. These men were poor in ideas; for amongst the three
is only one thought, as if they had one sword among them, which betimes
each one brandishes. Besides, they have a polemic's pride; they are
eager to make out a case, and thirst to prove poor Job a sinner. One
of them (it might as well be any other of them) runs on: "The
hypocrite's hope shall perish: whose hope shall be cut off, and whose
trust shall be a spider's web. Behold, God will not cast away a
perfect man; but the dwelling-place of the wicked shall come to
naught." This is savage cruelty, pouring nitric-acid into
sword-gashes. Nothing moves your plain man; for he delights in making
people wince. He is not angry, but natural, and his naturalness is
something worse than the choleric man's anger. He is saying: "Ah, Job,
see now—comfort, comfort? Why the house of the wicked shall come to
naught." And has not Job's house been splintered by the tempest? And
this friend of many years is saying, "Hypocrite!" But this word
recalls Job to himself. He rises above his pain, scarcely feeling the
twinges. His thought is drawn away from his physical calamity, and
that is a good anodyne for torture. His character is attacked, and he
must run to its succor as he would to the rescue of wife or child. Now
Job ceases sobbing, and becomes attorney for himself. He pleads his
cause with full knowledge of his own heart. He therefore speaks ex
cathedra so far. Job is on the defensive—not against God, but
against men. His "tongue is as the pen of a ready writer." Job is
himself again. His perturbation is passed as a cloud swims across the
Job is the misjudged man, than which few things are harder to bear.
That enemies misconstrue your motives and misjudge your conduct is to
be expected, though even then the spirit is lacerated; but when friends
misjudge us, our pain seems more than we can bear. This was Job's
case. His familiar friends become His accusers, rasping such words,
"How much more abominable and filthy is man which drinketh iniquity
like water!" and Job's cry crosses the centuries and reaches our ears
this day, "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for
the hand of God hath touched me!" Old Lear's cry, "Stay a little,
Cordelia," is no more pitiful than this strong man reaching for a hand
and finding none, and pleading for sympathy, and pleading in vain.
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.
This lament of Job is one aspect, and but one; for as he rises toward
God, his calamities seem slipping away from him as night's shadows from
the hills at dawn. God knows his case, and Job, conscious of his
integrity, looks God in the face, and his voice lifts into triumph,
passing out of complaint and bemoaning into sublime utterances, which
constitute the sublimest oration man ever pronounced, and is contained
in those parts of the poem reaching from chapter xxvi to chapter xxxi,
inclusive. I have read this oration, recalling the occasion which
produced it, and noted the movement of this aged orator's spirit, and
have compared it with Marc Antony's funeral oration over Caesar, given,
by common consent, the chiefest place among orations in the English
tongue. For that noble utterance my admiration is intense and glowing.
I answer to it as waters to the touch of violent winds; and in
conclusion, from comparing the orator Marc Antony with the orator Job
of Uz, I am compelled to confess that I love not Antony the less, but
Job the more. Marc Antony's oration was diplomatic, tragic, masterful,
pathetic; but Job's oration is spent in the realm of the pathetic and
sublime. The theme is the appeal to God. He has turned from man and
toward God. His thought swings in circles majestic as the circuits of
the stars. He fronts himself toward the Eternal as if to certify, "To
God I make my plea." His harshness is kinder than the kindness of man.
Job's orbit includes life. He runs out to God, but he runs to God.
Himself is point of departure on this long journey. This oration is an
apology, a plea of a great soul, pleading for what is above life. The
words have pathos, but they lift to sublime heights. Job sweeps on
like a rising tide. His false comforters sit silent, perplexed, but
silenced. His argument rises as a wind, which first blows lightly as a
child's breath on the cheek, then lifts and sways the branches of the
trees, then trumpets like a battle troop, then roars like storm-waves
beating on the rocks, until we hear naught but Job. What begins an
apology, ends a paean. At first, he spoke as, "By your leave, sirs."
Later, he seizes the occasion; masses his lifetime of experience and
thought and faith and attempted service; deploys his argument to show
how God's wisdom fills the soul's sky, as if all stars had coalesced to
frame a regal sun; makes his argument certify his conscious integrity
in motive and conduct, until he thunders like a tempest: "My desire is
that the Almighty would answer me. I would declare unto him the number
of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him,"—and on a sudden
his trumpet tones sink into softness, and his dilated frame stoops like
a broken wall, and he murmurs, "The words of Job—are ended." Yet so
potent his self-defense, that his three comforters sit silent as the
hushed night. Their argument is broken and their lips are dry. The
words of the comforters, like the words of Job, are ended.
Elihu, a youth, has been listening. Age has had its hour and argument,
and age is silenced, when, like the rush of a steed whose master is
smitten from the saddle, this impetuous youth speaks. At this point,
genius is evidenced by this unknown dramatist. A young man speaks, but
his are a young man's words, hurried, fitful, tinctured with
impertinence, headlong in statement and method; for he is youth, not
experienced, not deliberate, and easily influenced by the aged
argument, and taking strong ground, and is infallible in his own eyes;
and in him are visible the swagger and audacity of a boy. He makes no
contribution to the argument. His is a repetitional statement, though
himself does not know it. He thinks he is original. How delightful
the audacity of his opening: "If thou canst answer me, set thy words in
order before me. Stand up. Behold, I am according to thy wish in
God's stead." Clearly this is a young man speaking. A novice he, yet
with all the assurance of a man whose years have run more than
fourscore. He is bursting with speech and impudence, not perceiving
that to answer where old men have failed is a valorous task, to say the
least; and to attempt answer to Job, who has unhorsed every opponent in
the lists, is a strong man's work; but beyond this, Elihu undertakes to
answer for God. He will be in God's stead. See in this a young man's
lack of reverence. What the old men hesitated to attempt, knowing the
work lay beyond their united powers, this youth flings into as he would
into a swelling stream, swollen by sudden rains among the uplands. His
ears have been keen. Nothing has escaped him. All the words of
everybody he has in mind, his memory being perfect, since he is young
and no faculty impaired, and as the debate has proceeded and he has
seen old men overborne by the old man Job, his impetuous youth has seen
how he could answer. This is natural, as any one conversant with
himself (not to go further in investigation) must know. We itch to
reply, thinking we see the vulnerable joint in the harness. Job has
spoken last, and silenced his adversaries, and Elihu recalls
practically but one thought of Job's reply; namely, that he was not
unrighteous in intent, and gets, as most of us do, but a part of the
afflicted man's meaning, and concludes that Job is glaringly
self-righteous, missing the true flavor of Job's answer; for what Job
was, was self-respecting. And so Elihu gives Job a piece of his mind;
takes up the thread of argument where the old men had broken it, and
drives on, with many words and few ideas, to prove Job is wrong and
bad, and that God has simply meted out justice, no more. Elihu's words
fairly trample on each other's heels, and though only giving a weakened
statement of what had been said before, like a strong voice weakened by
age, he thinks his is a sledgehammer argument, illuminative,
convincing, unanswerable; yet because he thinks he speaks in God's
behalf and in God's stead, he rises into eloquence withal, though his
words are pitiless; for himself knows not suffering, nor can he compass
Job's calamity. Elihu mistakes the sight of his eyes for the truths of
God, a blunder of not infrequent recurrence. He is not all wrong, nor
is he all wrong in his desire to help to the truth, but is as a lad
trying to lift a mountain, which, planted by God, requires God to
So the drama sweeps on. Jobs sits silent, but not silenced. He makes
no reply to Elihu's invective. Here is a dignified silence more
impressive than any speech. He has been shot at by all the volleys of
the earth and sky; and, wounded in every part, he retains his faith in
God; nay, his faith is burning brightly, like a newly-trimmed lamp:
"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. I am misconceived by man,
but not by God;" and his face has a strange light, as if he had been
with Moses on the mount; and when, in a whirlwind's sweep, and above
it, God's voice is heard; and it is Job God answers, as if to say,
"Yours is the argument." God has no controversy with Elihu, nor yet
with the aged counselors. Them he ignores; them, by and by, he
rebukes. Job, and not they, had been right. God is come as
vindicator. If his voice thunders like tempestuous skies, there is to
appear an unspeakable tenderness in it at the last. He is not come to
ride Job down, like a charge of Bedouin cavalry. He is come to clear
his sky. He is come to give him vision and to show him wisdom, of
which, though Job has spoken, he has had none too much. In the drama,
God speaks in discussion to two persons. In conversational tones, in
the prologue to the drama, he talks with Satan when he leads Job to
trial. Job's calamities, instead of being a proof of his turpitude,
are proof of the confidence God reposes in him.
What a revelation in character that is! If for a time God had, as
object-lesson to the Jew and through him to the world, granted visible
rewards and visible punishments, that was not the permanent scheme.
God's administration is hid from vulgar eyes truly, but also from the
eyes "of the wise and prudent." Man's wisdom may not vaunt itself.
God's moral system is no well-lit room in which all furnishings are
visible; rather a twilight gloom, where men and women grope. We know
enough. Virtue is made very evident, and vice very despicable, and God
very apparent—and these be the sufficient data for the monograph of
life. "All things work together for good to them that love God," is
the far-away response to Job's troubled cry. God converses with Satan
long enough to deny the allegation that Job serves God as a matter of
dollars and cents, that it is convenient—so runs the devil's
sneer—convenient for Job to be good; for he finds it profitable. But
if God will lower his rate of profit in goodness, and if God will
shipwreck all Job's prosperity, and sting him with the serpent-touch of
dire disease, then will Job become as others. Profit in goodness gone,
his goodness will "fade as doth a leaf." This is evil's pessimistic
philosophy, and Job, on whom calamitous circumstances pile as Dagon's
temple on Samson's head; Job, trusting where he can not see, and making
his appeal to God, whose ways are hid,—is the lie given to Satan's
prophecies, and the vindication of God's confidence in Job. Job has
been as one sold into servitude for a month. Satan hath been a hard
master, has thrust him exceeding sore, has given no intermission of
peril or anguish, has crowded sorrow on sorrow, has snatched away every
flower from the field of this good man's life, and watches, leering, to
hear him say, "I will curse God and die;" but when, after arguments
compounded of pain and tears and hope, Job returns to his silence,
saying, "The words of Job are ended," Satan has witnessed the triumph
of a good man, and disproof of his own sorry accusations, and the
vindication of God's estimate; and, as is fitting, he stays not to
acknowledge defeat, but slips away as the whirlwind chariot of Jehovah
dashes into sight. Satan, not Job, has been defeated.
And in the long years of a prosperous life, no confidence has been
reposed in Job so worthy as this reposed in him of God, to put to
silence the slanders of wickedness that goodness was a species of
selfishness; so that what Job did not understand, and what his friends
interpreted as the certain disfavor of God, was sign of the trust God
reposed in him. Satan had done his worst on a good man, and had
failed! What an apocalypse this was! The second person with whom God
holds conversation is Job. Satan he talked with in conversational
tones, with no state nor eloquence. Job he honors, coming in regal
splendor, by thundering with his voice, by treating Job as if he were
ambassador for some potentate whom God held in high regard. God's
argument is the climax of sublimity reached in literature; is mountain
summit of sublime thought and utterance. What effect is wanting to
make this scene bewildering in sublimity? One? No. The auditor is
Job, sitting in the ruin of home and love, and friendships and
consequence among men, and good repute, and if, bending low, you will
hear him, you shall know he is sobbing for children that are not. One
lonely, distraught, mystified, sorely-beleagured, and still
surely-trusting man,—this is the audience. The scene is a tawny
desert, once sown to oases of flowers, and billowing grain, and stately
palm-tree, and olive-groves, now harvestless, flowerless, palmless.
Once a stately palace rose beside a fountain here, and from its open
doors ran genial hospitality, to greet the coming guest and the
wayfarer overtaken by the night and weariness; and from the windows
singing and laughter rose, like a chorus of youthful voices; and
now—where these things were are only ruins, havoc, disaster; and Job
sits amidst the desolation that once was home as if he were crowned
king of the realm of Calamity; and the desert, tawny as a tiger's skin,
stretches away to the horizon, barren as the sea, than which is nothing
more solitary or pregnant with melancholy and thought.
The sky is ample and open. Not a cloud flecks it with its foam. From
desert line to the blue zenith is only bewildering blue; when, black as
a stormy midnight, driving as if lightnings were its chariot steeds,
comes the whirlwind whereon the Almighty rides, and halts; and God
pitches his midnight pavilion in front of silent Job on the silent
desert, and from this tent, whose curtains are not drawn, there
trumpets a voice. God is come! And God speaks! "The Lord answered
Job out of the whirlwind." Eloquence like this on forum like this,
literature knows nothing of. Sublimity is come to its noon.
"Where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the earth?" is the
astounding introductory. No exordium is here. Into the thick of
argument, God leaps as a soldier might leap into the midst of furious
battle. "Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid
the corner-stones thereof; when the morning stars sang together, and
all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with
doors, when I made the cloud the garment thereof, and set bars and
doors, and said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here
shall thy proud waves be stayed? Hast thou commanded the morning since
thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place; that it might
take hold of the ends of the earth that the wicked might be shaken out
of it? It is changed as clay under the seal; and all things stand
forth as a garment; and from the wicked their light is withholden, and
the high arm shall be broken. Hast thou entered into the springs of
the sea? Have the gates of death been opened unto thee? Where is the
way where light dwelleth? And as for darkness, where is the place
thereof? Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? By what
way is the light parted, or the east wind scattered upon the earth?
Who hath cleft a channel for the waterflood, or a way for the lightning
of the thunder? Hath the rain a father? or who hath begotten the drops
of dew? Canst thou bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the
bands of Orion? Canst thou lead forth the signs of the zodiac in their
seasons? or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the
ordinances of the heavens? Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds,
that abundance of waters may cover thee? Canst thou send forth
lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are? Who
provideth for the raven his food, when his young ones cry unto God, and
wander for lack of meat? But seeing thou canst not understand these
things, and they are too high for thee, canst thou understand some
little things, and answer some trivial questions I will put to thee?
Knowest thou the secret of the wild goat or the wild ass on the desert?
or the wild ox? or the ostrich that scorneth the horse and his rider?
or the horse, hast thou given him strength? for he paweth in the
valley, and leaps as a locust, and rejoiceth in his strength, and goeth
out to meet the armed men; he mocketh at fear, and is not dismayed,
neither turneth his back from the sword; he smelleth the battle afar
off. Doth the hawk soar by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward
the south? Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest
on high? And behemoth, what of him? His limbs are like bars of iron;
he is confident, though Jordan swell even to his mouth. Or leviathan,
what canst thou do with him, and what knowest thou of him? In his neck
abideth strength; his breath kindleth coals; his heart is as firm as a
stone; he counteth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood; and when he
raiseth himself up, the mighty are afraid. Hast thou an arm like God?
and canst thou thunder with a voice like him? Deck thyself now with
excellency and dignity, and array thyself with honor and majesty. Pour
forth the overflowings of thy anger; and look upon every one that is
proud, and abase him. Look on every one that is proud, and bring him
low; and tread down the wicked where they stand, and hide them in the
And Job called, so that his words sounded through the whirlwind's
curtains: "I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of
Thine can be restrained. Who is this that hideth counsel without
knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that which I understood not;
things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Wherefore I abhor
myself, and repent in dust and ashes." And Job has learned this
salutary lesson, that no man can comprehend all the ways life leads,
nor need to. God is above the ways of life:
"He leads us on by paths we do not know;
Upward he leads us, though our steps be slow;
Though oft we faint and falter by the way;
Though clouds and darkness oft obscure the day,
And still He leads us on."
Job has learned to rest his case with God.
"My God knows best! Through all my days
This is my comfort and my rest;
My trust, my peace, my solemn praise,—
That God knows all, and God knows best.
My God knows best! That is my chart—
That thought to me is always blest:
It hallows and it soothes my heart;
For all is well, and God knows best.
My God knows best! Then tears may fall:
In his great heart I find my rest;
For he, my God, is over all;
And he is love, and he knows best."
God's argument is burned into Job's mind. How can man, who understands
not the visible things of daily recurrence, think to penetrate the
meaning of the moral universe, whose ways are hidden, like the caverns
of the seas? Not Job, nor any one of those who have spoken, has found
the clew to this maze. But Job is impregnable now in his trust in God,
as if he were in a fortress whose approaches were guarded by the angels
And God spake yet once more; and now a word of rebuke—not argument—to
the old men, who trembled near the tent of God's whirlwind: "My wrath
is kindled against you: for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is
right, as my servant Job hath. My servant Job shall pray for you; for
him I will accept." And Job, what ails Job now? He thought he was
rebuked of God in the Divine argument, and now he knows himself, at a
word, vindicated, exalted; honor burnished, and not tarnished; himself,
not accused of God, but beloved of him, and praised by him,—and Job is
weeping like a little child; and lifting up his face, while the tears
rain down his cheeks, his eyes and his heart and his face are like
springtime in laughter, and his voice is as the singing of a psalm!
For "the Lord turned the captivity of Job."
How great an advent! Beauty this drama has; but beauty belongs to the
rivulet and the twilights; but sublimity to the Niagaras, and the
oceans, and the human heart, and the words of God. This drama is
sublimity's self. Theme, actors, movement, goal, pertinency to the
deepest needs of soul and experience, and chiefly, God as protagonist,
say that sublimity belongs to this drama as naturally as to the
prodigious mountains or to the desert at night. "Surely, God is in
this place, and we knew it not."
And Job ends as comedy, though it began as tragedy. Hamlet ends in
tragedy. He has lost faith, and his arm is palsied. We hear the
musicians of Fortinbras playing a funeral dirge. Hamlet was tragedy
because God was not there. When God is near, no tragedy is possible.
God is out of Hamlet. Job had closed as Job began, with tragedy dire
and utter, but that here a man refused to let go of God. Job believed.
He did not understand. He was sore pressed. His tears and his anguish
blinded him for an hour; but where he could not see, he groped, and
"God's right hand in the darkness,
And was lifted up and strengthened."
And God comes! and Job ends not in funeral dirge, as it began, but in
laughter and the smiting of silver cymbals. A good man's life has
tragedy, but ends not so. If he die, God is at his bedside, holding
his hand; and when he dies, he has good hope and solemn joy; for he
shall live again.