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from the pump to the engine, or the empty buckets from the engine to the pump; some caught up the hooks and pulled down blazing boards and shingles; some rushed into the building with their ozenbrig bags, and came out laden with household stuff.
All this energy, excellent as it was, seemed to Franklin misused. If so much could be done in a way so bad, a hundred-fold more, he thought, could be done if a little order were introduced. Thinking so, he wrote two papers on the subject of fires, read them to the Junto, and published them in the "Gazette." The matter is in no wise remarkable; but the style is a good specimen of persuasive argument. That they had this effect on people in general is doubtful; but they did on the Junto, who quickly formed the Union Fire Company, the first of its kind in the province. Others followed their example, and to the "Union," "The Hand-in-hand" and "The Heart-inhand" were soon added.
Yet another of his pieces in the "Gazette must not be passed over in silence. It is in verse, and is a paraphrase of the sublime lamentation of David over the death of Jonathan and Saul. He begins by stating his belief that the art of poetry was made known to the Hebrews by Moses; gives reasons for thinking so; takes
up the lamentation, and observes that it has many times been paraphrased in English, that none of the paraphrases are quite to his mind, and that he will therefore give the reader one of his own make, as bad perhaps as any of them. The poem is long; but a few stanzas will serve as a specimen of all:
Unhappy Day! distressing sight,
How is thy strength, thy beauty fled!
On the high places of the fight,
Behold thy Princes fall'n, thy Sons of Victory dead.
Ne'er be it told in Gath, nor known
Among the streets of Askelon;
How will Philista's youth rejoice
And triumph in thy shame,
And girls with weak unhallow'd voice
Mountains of Gilboa, let no dew
Nor fruitful shower descend on you;
Judean heroes lost their shields.
"T was there (ah, base reproach and scandal of the day!) Thy shield, O Saul! was cast away,
As tho' the Prophet's horn had never shed
Its sacred odors on thy head.
Many years later, when age and experience should have taught him better, he again made a paraphrase of a chapter of Job. In no book, it is safe to say, is the force and beauty of the English tongue so finely shown as in King James's Bible. But on Franklin that force and beauty were wholly lost. The language he pronounced obsolete. The style he thought not agreeable, and he was for a new rendering in which the turn of phrase and manner of expression should be modern. That there might be no mistake as to his meaning, he gave a sample of how the work should be done; took some verses from the first chapter of Job, stripped them of every particle of grace, beauty, imagery, terseness, and strength, and wrote a paraphrase which, of all paraphrases of the Bible, is surely the worst.
Verse 6. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also amongst them.
7. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord and said, From going
Verse 6. And it being levee day in Heaven, all God's nobility came to court to present themselves before him; and Satan also appeared in the circle, as one of the ministry.
7. And God said unto Satan, You have been some time absent; where were you? And Satan answered,
to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
8. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil?
9. And Satan answered the Lord and said, Doth Job fear God for naught?
11. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
I have been at my countryseat, and in different places visiting my friends.
8. And God said, Well, what think you of Lord Job? You see he is my best friend, a perfectly honest man, full of respect for me, and avoiding every thing that might offend me.
9. And Satan answered, Does your majesty imagine that his good conduct is the effect of personal attachment and affection?
11. Try him--only withdraw your favor, turn him out of his places, and withhold his pensions, and you will soon find him in the opposition.
The plan is beneath criticism. Were such a piece of folly ever begun, there would remain but one other depth of folly to which it would be possible to go down. Franklin proposed to fit out the Kingdom of Heaven with lords, nobles, a ministry, and levee days. It would on the same principle be proper to make another version suitable for republics; a version from which every term and expression peculiar to
a monarchy should be carefully kept out, and only such as are applicable to a republic put in. Nor would he have hesitated to make such a version. The Bible was to him in no sense a book for spiritual guidance. It showed a most amazing knowledge of the heart of man, of the actions of men, of the passions and temptations of men, and of the way in which during moments of passion and temptation men would surely act. It abounded in examples as often to be shunned as followed. It taught just such lessons as he was teaching, lessons of honesty, thrift, diligence, worldly wisdom, and sometimes of politics. But it displayed this knowledge, held up these examples, and taught these lessons, that men might be happier, not in another world, but in this.
Hence it was that the first chapter of Job taught him nothing but a lesson in politics. In a piece called "The Levee," and still placed among the bagatelles, Franklin set forth his understanding of the strange scene, and asks what instruction is to be gathered from it. His answer is ready: "Trust not a single person with the government of your state. For if the Deity himself, being the monarch, may for a time give way to calumny, and suffer it to operate the destruction of the best of subjects, what mischief may you not expect from such