The Goose: Keep Your Mouth Shut

Book Title: De Bykorf des Gemoeds : Honing zaamelende uit allerley Bloemen / Vervattende over de Honderd konstige Figuuren ; Met Godlyke Spreuken En Stichtelyke Verzen, Door Jan Luiken

Author: Luiken, Jan, 1649-1712

Image Title: The Goose: Keep Your Mouth Shut

Scripture Reference:

Description: Three geese lie on the foreground; one of them is honking. One of two men contemplates the geese on the ground while a second points to a flock of wild geese in the air. The Dutch artist and poet Jan Luiken (1649-1712), whose initials are at the lower right, was responsible for drawing and etching this emblem, as well as for the poem that accompanies it (below). The attendant Scripture text is Matthew 12:36.

It is said: it’s better to hold your tongue,
Then to get into trouble through speaking.

O That there were many mouths,
In the large company of the human race,
That did understand well the practice of Geese,
And heeded that, as well as they!
A little stone taken into the beak,
So that it thoughtfully silences it,
In order to pass in silence through,
The region where it suspects the Eagle.
O That many also acted thus,
And carried a reminder in their heart,
So that the Soul would not suffer any damage,
And would not thus become so sorely harmed!
But that in silence and with fear,
Because of the grave and threatening danger,
It might escape the claw and beak,
Of the cruel violence of the hellish Eagle.
But no, one lets himself be heard,
Yet doesn’t expect the big enemy to watch,
Who catches the honking in his ears,
And ready for the kill, draws his advantage from it.
O chattering mouths do be silent,
Given that the dumb animal restrains its nature,
So it doesn’t expire in misery,
But thoughtfully escapes the crafty snare.
Since if thou dost let thy noise be heard,
And dost thereby make public who thou art,
Thou dost descend in God’s stern wrath,
And dost find thyself too late in misery.

(Translation by Josephine V. Brown, with editorial assistance from William G. Stryker)

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