The Sea: For Little, Great Existence

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 Sea: For Little, Great Existence

Scripture Reference:

Description: Under a dark sky, two sailing ships are tossed at sea by enormous waves. 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 scripture text is 1 Corinthians 9:25.

Motto: Where remains the courage, For the Eternal Good?

The many wonders in which we live,
And are surrounded by,
Include viewing the consideration,
Through the eye of human reason,
Of that wonder of frightfulness,
That huge and terrible Sea.
When the storm winds calm down,
The sea’s constant tossing is frightful,
Mouths of froth from great foaming,
High mounting, and dreadful gaping,
As if it would take everything away,
And pull it home into its abyss.
There the human life dares,
Nevertheless still to go on,
So undaunted and bold,
Not to sail a short stretch,
But even the route of a thousand miles,
In the house of planks bound together.
And his reason is only trifling.
For the wicked enjoyment of earthly things,
Man thus becomes fearless,
While he risks the dearest life,
For which he would give his all,
On the mouth of the abyss.
And whether he will reach the goal,
Hangs in the balance of both scales,
What comes up, fortune or misfortune:
Whether he will obtain what he aimed for,
Whether he will carry home what he obtained,
So one risks the daring and uncertain matter.
O Souls who have embarked
On the journey to the Eternal blessed life,
On the Ship of temporal flesh and blood,
On the World’s Sea and wild wave
Through storm and thunder and dangers,
Keep firm hope and good courage.
Thou seest to venture for the earthly burden,
Then brave thee the angry squalls,
The jolting and struggling of up and down,
The diligence of measuring and gauging,
The vigilance to sail well,
And more similar difficulties.
If others do that for trifles,
Thou, for the greatest of all things,
They, for obtaining earthly desire,
For the Bread of pursued treasures,
Which speedily fall from their grasp,
Thou, for the richest coast,
Of Eternal Permanence,
Too great, for the vat of earthly reason:
For the immeasurable pleasure;
And for that, which through obstacles
No adversity can wrest from thee,
They do it for Goods, but thou for God.
O Souls on life’s waves,
Brave thee then this crossing.

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

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