The Young Calf: One Learns from Damage and Disgrace

Book Title: De bykorf des gemoeds : honing zaamelende uit allerly bloemen / vervattende over de honderd konstige figuuren ; met godlyke spreuken en stichtelyke verzen, door Jan Luiken

Author: Luiken, Jan, 1649-1712

Image Title: The Young Calf: One Learns from Damage and Disgrace

Scripture Reference:

Description: Two farmers push a calf into a ditch to teach it to avoid the water in the future. The ditch runs close to a farm with more cattle. A village with a church can be seen in the background. 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 John 5:14.

If thou hast only half an Intellect,
Then thou doest not differ from the Calf.

The young Calf, lying in the ditch,
Has become frightened of the ditch,
So that it then afterwards takes heed:
Man, from the body’s adversities,
Has often suffered much sorrow;
And yet does not take heed,
So as not to fall again into the ditch,
That is the worst of all;
That deep ditch of Death and Hell!
It is often indeed intended,
But once arisen from the sickbed,
One sees again the old game.
Yet, man deals with many things,
Which are above the Calf’s comprehension,
But they are only things from this Time,
In clay, mud and dust of the earth,
And therefore also of little value,
So one only loses the best part.
The Noble human life,
Should not yield to the cattle,
But should with a most faithful guard,
(As it has tasted sorrow and suffering)
Avoid the Eternal sorrow of the heart,
In the deepest and dirtiest ditch.

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

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