The Marsh and Swamp: It Can Become What It Does Not Resemble

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 Marsh and Swamp: It Can Become What It Does Not Resemble

Scripture Reference:

Description: A man and woman view the tall reeds grown in a marsh. The woman carries a basket made from reeds. 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 Job 8:11 and Isaiah 42:3.

Wisdom enriches itself,
From trivial mud.

The Marsh makes its jewels
Of thatch, reeds and green leaves,
In which the wind plays gently,
And the little finch lets one hear its joy,
So that thus, to the eyes and ears,
The miracle of God is made known.
Here man understands, who knows how to put,
All things in the service of his life,
Through ingenuity and quick wit,
To find also his proper use,
That makes him cut and bind,
The harvest of the swamp’s reeds.
What service will we receive from this?
The reeds are prepared for the feet,
And as a comfortable chair;
And the thatch, (who would use it for that,
When he sees it grow so tall and thin)
Becomes overhead, a protective roof.
So one can put unesteemed things,
So trifling compared to wine and grain,
To good use.
They will then be even wiser,
They will be praised more highly,
And are called most well advised;
Who make use of their dexterity,
In matters of Piety,
So unpleasing and scorned,
And against the proud and worldly life,
Elevated on the beauty of luxury’s throne,
As reeds are compared to grain:
They who make these ignored things,
So useful to themselves,
That, from this un-esteemed Marsh,
Met by disdain and laughter,
For them finally is woven,
The comfort of the eternal Peace-chair.
And under their feet, below,
A soft floor for their steps,
And above the head a safe roof,
That firmly through God’s blessing,
Protects them eternally from wind and rain,
And the hardship of cold and heat.
Thus not to know any grief,
To sit quietly in the shade,
Of the Highest Majesty,
That will be true prosperity,
Therefore, he is wise, and highly praised,
Who makes the good out of the bad.

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

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