The Voice of Job

“O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that thou wouldst keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldst appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.”

— Job 14: 13-15

The book of Job seems to me the most daring of poems: from a position of the most vantageless realism, it assaults the very citadel of the ideal! Its hero is a man seated among the ashes, covered with loathsome boils from head to foot, scraping himself with a potsherd. Sore in body, mind, and spirit, he is the instance-type of humanity in the depths of its misery. Job is the human being—a center to the sickening assaults of pain, the ghastly invasions of fear: these one time or another, threaten to overwhelm every man, reveal him to himself as enslaved to the external, and stir him up to find some way out into the infinite, where alone he can rejoice in the liberty that belongs to his nature. Job cries aloud to the Might unseen, in infinite perplexity as well as pain. Before the Judge he asserts his innocence, and will not grovel, knowing indeed that to bear himself so would be to insult the holy. He feels he has not deserved such suffering, and will neither tell nor listen to lies for God. Job is nothing of a Stoic, but bemoans himself like a child—a brave child who seems to himself to suffer wrong, and recoils with horror-struck bewilderment from the unreason of the thing. He will not believe God a tyrant; but, while he pleads against his dealing with himself, loves him, and looks to him as the source of life, the gladness of being.