With friends like these…

Poor Job: Among your sorrows, not the least
Your friends: Let ring their resonant toponyms
To the last age: Bildad, distinguished Shuhite,
Eliphaz, Temanite; Zophar the whatsit,
Ah yes, Naamithite. One does forget.
For one has seen more than a few of these,
From places less exotic. Like next door.

All gather, by consent, t’inspect your boils
And moralize upon them. Every kind
Of useless comfort, found in misplaced kindness,
Chapter on chapter they lay on, sententious,
Proverbial, gnomic, epigrammatical,
Folk knowledge by the cracker-barrelful.
And how they do go on, prosing away.
D’they ever even need to take a breath?

This is of course unfair to him who wrote
Or edited the book. He didn’t mean
To hold them up to ridicule. They speak
Wisdom, no doubt. Ecclesiasticus
And Proverbs much the same; and they’re astute.

Wise as they are, though, Job’s not comforted.
And no one would be. Where’d it all go wrong,
What ancient sin or trauma now pops up
In boils? The comforters are whole of skin.
What do they know? They haven’t got the boils,
Though they have explanations, each to each
A contradiction.

   Me, I think the guy
Who wrote, or edited this book, discovered
He’d bit off more than he could chew. Our man —
Job, with the boils – hijacks the tale. His friends
Were meant, I think, to give the answer. Job,
That bloody-minded unconsolable Job —
Spits in their face.

   (His wife is not much help
Either; “Curse God”, she says, or maybe “bless”
— Translators disagree; but then she says
“And die”. There’s really nothing doubtful there.)

Well, thanks my dear, and thanks, my comforters,
Says Job, who’s taken over from his scribe;
Character drives the tale now, and appeals
On high. And as we know he gets his answer.

It’s not much better: Where were you when I,
And so on, but it is undoubtedly
Authoritative. Asked for, must be taken.
God answers every question with a question —
A very Jewish God. Better His questions
Than Bildad’s answers, though. So Job shuts up.

2 thoughts on “With friends like these…

  1. a good chance to revisit those Blake prints. Job’s wife appears in most of them, appearing to be one among the audience. Blake didn’t dismiss her from the story, whereas I think we dismiss her after her one sentence. but she’s listening to the whole thing, from Blake’s view.

    is that significant?

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