The Air: Who Can Do Without It

Book Title: Beschouwing der wereld : bestaande in hondert konstige figuuren, met godlyke spreuken en stichtelyke verzen / door Jan Luiken.

Author: Luiken, Jan, 1649-1712

Image Title: The Air: Who Can Do Without It

Scripture Reference:

Description: A young man walks in the country side with his arms stretched out in front of him. The Dutch artist and poet Jan Luiken (1649-1712) was responsible for drawing this emblem and composed the poem that accompanies it. The etching was executed by Jan Luiken or his son Casper Luiken (1672-1708), who had used this image in an earlier work, which may be found in the Digital Image Archive under the call number 1699Weig. The attendant scriptures are Psalm 150:6 and Daniel 5:23.

Motto: Though one does not see it, Still it exists.

O Thin Air, intangible substance,
Yet so very valuable,
As everything that breathes on this earth,
Must live thanks to thee:
Who honors and praises thy sweetness,
That is consumed ceaselessly?
Carelessness passes thee by,
And coarser food makes thee forgotten.
Is it a wonder that a higher degree,
Of what is incomprehensible about life,
Through which all life exists,
The Spring, which must give up everything,
For the inattentive heart,
Remains forgotten? while coarse things,
With which it feeds the animal nature,
Make its dull spirit careless.
So the most noble remains unnoticed,
Too fine for eyes and hands,
Scentless, and therefore not valued,
To the disgrace of human life.
But Noble wisdom does not act like that;
It recognizes the incomprehensible being,
Though it cannot touch or see it,
And it is praised by wisdom’s heart,
As the cause through which everything lives,
And as a food of eternal giving,
That wisdom’s heart always desires,
And through which it hopes to live eternally.
O deepest source of air!
Be thou the breathing of our desire.

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

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