The Famine: Hunger Is a Sharp Sword

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 Famine: Hunger Is a Sharp Sword

Scripture Reference:

Description: A man, a woman and two children satisfy their hunger cravings by eating a dead horse while a second man is being pushed away. In the far background, a man is about to kill a dog with a sword. 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 adapted this image from one used in an earlier work, which may be found in the Digital Image Archive under the call number 1699Weig. The attendant scripture text is Psalm 37:18-19.

Motto: Avoid being in dire need, Of eternal bread.

When the highest through his blessing,
Of sunshine, dew and rain,
Provides the people of the land with food,
Then the people begin to sing with joy,
So that one eats, drinks and plays,
And does not think of one’s provider.
But, if, in barren times,
The sharp sword begins to cut,
That sharp sword, called hunger,
Only then is it truly realized,
How the good has been carelessly devoured,
Only then is the full enjoyment weighed.
Where the fire of life desires to consume,
And must lack the needed food,
The anxious wheel begins,
Gradually to turn more and more,
While it finds neither right nor left anything to reap,
Where earlier it possessed abundance.
Through this pinching of God’s wrath,
Is born a heavy and nasty report
Regarding fruits of the stricken land,
That tells its neighbors,
About the fury and frenzy,
Of such a desperate situation.
O Man, how joyful it is to live,
Where the human life is given,
All that reasonableness requires,
May each one then be frightened of want,
So that he sets his course,
Where God’s finger directs him.
Along the trail of virtuous ways,
To the land, of all full blessings,
The land of plenty;
Whose citizen never has to fear,
That a famine will ever come,
That blessed land of eternal good.
If the sword of hunger cuts so sharply,
How should life then avoid,
(O Man! this counter-weight is huge,
After the fat year of pleasure,
In these brief days of life,)
The Danger of eternal famine!
Since he who will in his heart be without
The Creator of all food,
The true bread of true wise men,
How will he ever be satisfied?
Therefore O Man! seek God’s mercy,
= So that thou wilt be fed eternally.

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

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