Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1.: A STRAIN OF JONAH THE PROPHET. - Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 4: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Part First and Second
1.: A STRAIN OF JONAH THE PROPHET. - A. Cleveland Coxe, Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 4: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Part First and Second 
Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 4: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Part First and Second, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Revised and Chronologically arranged with brief prefaces and occasional notes by A. Cleveland Coxe (New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885).
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A STRAIN OF JONAH THE PROPHET.
- After the living, aye-enduring death
- Of Sodom and Gomorrah; after fires
- Penal, attested by time-frosted plains
- Of ashes; after fruitless apple-growths,
- 5Born but to feed the eye; after the death
- Of sea and brine, both in like fate involved;
- While whatsoe’er is human still retains
- In change corporeal its penal badge:
- A city—Nineveh—by stepping o’er
- 10The path of justice and of equity,
- On her own head had well-nigh shaken down
- More fires of rain supernal. For what dread
- Dwells in a mind subverted? Commonly
- Tokens of penal visitations prove
- 15All vain where error holds possession. Still,
- Kindly and patient of our waywardness,
- And slow to punish, the Almighty Lord
- Will launch no shaft of wrath, unless He first
- Admonish and knock oft at hardened hearts,
- 20Rousing with mind august presaging seers.
- For to the merits of the Ninevites
- The Lord had bidden Jonah to foretell
- Destruction; but he, conscious that He spares
- The subject, and remits to suppliants
- 25The dues of penalty, and is to good
- Ever inclinable, was loth to face
- That errand; lest he sing his seerly strain
- In vain, and peaceful issue of his threats
- Ensue. His counsel presently is flight:
- 30(If, howsoe’er, there is at all the power
- God to avoid, and shun the Lord’s right hand,
- ’Neath whom the whole orb trembles and is held
- In check: but is there reason in the act
- Which in his saintly heart the prophet dares?)
- 35On the beach-lip, over against the shores
- Of the Cilicians, is a city poised,
- Far-famed for trusty port—Joppa her name.
- Thence therefore Jonah speeding in a barque
- Seeks Tarsus, through the signal providence
- 40Of the same God; nor marvel is’t, I ween,
- If, fleeing from the Lord upon the lands,
- He found Him in the waves. For suddenly
- A little cloud had stained the lower air
- With fleecy wrack sulphureous, itself
- 45By the wind’s seed excited: by degrees,
- Bearing a brood globose, it with the sun
- Cohered, and with a train caliginous
- Shut in the cheated day. The main becomes
- The mirror of the sky; the waves are dyed
- 50With black encirclement; the upper air
- Down rushes into darkness, and the sea
- Uprises; nought of middle space is left;
- While the clouds touch the waves, and the waves all
- Are mingled by the bluster of the winds
- 55In whirling eddy. ’Gainst the renegade,
- ’Gainst Jonah, diverse frenzy joined to rave,
- While one sole barque did all the struggle breed
- ’Twixt sky and surge. From this side and from that
- Pounded she reels; ’neath each wave-breaking blow
- 60The forest of her tackling trembles all;
- As, underneath, her spinal length of keel,
- Staggered by shock on shock, all palpitates;
- And, from on high, her labouring mass of yard
- Creaks shuddering; and the tree-like mast itself
- 65Bends to the gale, misdoubting to be riven.
- Meantime the rising clamour of the crew
- Tries every chance for barque’s and dear life’s sake:
- To pass from hand to hand the tardy coils
- To tighten the girth’s noose: straitly to bind
- 70The tiller’s struggles; or, with breast opposed,
- T’ impel reluctant curves. Part, turn by turn,
- With foremost haste outbale the reeking well
- Of inward sea. The wares and cargo all
- They then cast headlong, and with losses seek
- 75Their perils to subdue. At every crash
- Of the wild deep rise piteous cries; and out
- They stretch their hands to majesties of gods,
- Which gods are none; whom might of sea and sky
- Fears not, nor yet the less from off their poops
- 80With angry eddy sweeping sinks them down.
- Unconscious of all this, the guilty one
- ’Neath the poop’s hollow arch was making sleep
- Re-echo stertorous with nostril wide
- Inflated: whom, so soon as he who guides
- 85The functions of the wave-dividing prow
- Saw him sleep-bound in placid peace, and proud
- In his repose, he, standing o’er him, shook,
- And said, “Why sing’st, with vocal nostril, dreams,
- In such a crisis? In so wild a whirl,
- 90Why keep’st thou only harbour? Lo! the wave
- Whelms us, and our one hope is in the gods.
- Thou also, whosoever is thy god,
- Make vows, and, pouring prayers on bended knee,
- Win o’er thy country’s Sovran!”
- Then they vote
- 95To learn by lot who is the culprit, who
- The cause of storm; nor does the lot belie
- Jonah: whom then they ask, and ask again,
- “Who? whence? who in the world? from what abode,
- What people, hail’st thou?” He avows himself
- 100A servant, and an over-timid one,
- Of God, who raised aloft the sky, who based
- The earth, who corporally fused the whole:
- A renegade from Him he owns himself,
- And tells the reason. Rigid turned they all
- 105With dread. “What grudge, then, ow’st thou us? What now
- Will follow? By what deed shall we appease
- The main?” For more and far more swelling grew
- The savage surges. Then the seer begins
- Words prompted by the Spirit of the Lord:
- 110“Lo! I your tempest am; I am the sum
- Of the world’s madness: ’tis in me,” he says,
- “That the sea rises, and the upper air
- Down rushes; land in me is far, death near,
- And hope in God is none! Come, headlong hurl
- 115Your cause of bane: lighten your ship, and cast
- This single mighty burden to the main,
- A willing prey!” But they—all vainly!—strive
- Homeward to turn their course; for helm refused
- To suffer turning, and the yard’s stiff poise
- 120Willed not to change. At last unto the Lord
- They cry: “For one soul’s sake give us not o’er
- Unto death’s maw, nor let us be besprent
- With righteous blood, if thus Thine own right hand
- Leadeth.” And from the eddy’s depth a whale
- 125Outrising on the spot, scaly with shells,
- Unravelling his body’s train, ’gan urge
- More near the waves, shocking the gleaming brine,
- Seizing—at God’s command—the prey; which, rolled
- From the poop’s summit prone, with slimy jaws
- 130He sucked; and into his long belly sped
- The living feast; and swallowed, with the man,
- The rage of sky and main. The billowy waste
- Grows level, and the ether’s gloom dissolves;
- The waves on this side, and the blasts on that,
- 135Are to their friendly mood restored; and, where
- The placid keel marks out a path secure,
- White traces in the emerald furrow bloom.
- The sailor then does to the reverend Lord
- Of death make grateful offering of his fear;
- 140Then enters friendly ports.
- Jonah the seer
- The while is voyaging, in other craft
- Embarked, and cleaving ’neath the lowest waves
- A wave: his sails the intestines of the fish,
- Inspired with breath ferine; himself, shut in
- 145By waters, yet untouched; in the sea’s heart,
- And yet beyond its reach; ’mid wrecks of fleets
- Half-eaten, and men’s carcasses dissolved
- In putrid disintegrity: in life
- Learning the process of his death; but still—
- 150To be a sign hereafter of the Lord —
- A witness was he (in his very self),
- Not of destruction, but of death’s repulse.
These two lines, if this be their true sense, seem to refer to Lot’s wife. But the grammar and meaning of this introduction are alike obscure.
“Metus;” used, as in other places, of godly fear.
Lit. “from,” i.e., which, urged by a heart which is that of a saint, even though on this occasion it failed, the prophet dared.
“Tarshish,” Eng. ver.; perhaps Tartessus in Spain. For this question, and the “trustiness” of Joppa (now Jaffa) as a port, see Pusey on Jonah i. 3.
Ejusdem per signa Dei.
i.e., the cloud.
Genitus (Oehler); geminus (Migne) = “twin clamour,” which is not inapt.
Mandare (Oehler). If this be the true reading, the rendering in the text seems to represent the meaning, for “mandare” with an accusative, in the sense of “to bid the tardy coils tighten the girth’s noose,” seems almost too gross a solecism for even so lax a Latinist as our present writer. Migne, however, reads mundare = to “clear the tardy coils,” i.e., probably from the wash and weed with which the gale was cloying them.
Tunc Domini vates ingesta Spiritus infit. Of course it is a gross offence against quantity to make a genitive in “us” short, as the rendering in the text does. But a writer who makes the first syllable in “clamor” and the last syllable of gerunds in do short, would scarcely be likely to hesitate about taking similar liberties with a genitive of the so-called fourth declension. It is possible, it is true, to take “vates” and “Spiritus” as in apposition, and render, “Then the seer-Spirit of the Lord begins to utter words inspired,” or, “Then the seer-Spirit begins to utter the promptings of the Lord.” But these renderings seem to accord less well with the ensuing words.
i.e., apparently with shells which had gathered about him as he lay in the deep.
This seems to be the sense of Oehler’s “Nauta at tum Domino leti venerando timorem Sacrificat grates”—“grates” being in apposition with “timorem.” But Migne reads: “Nautæ tum Domino læti venerando timorem Sacrificant grates:”—
- “The sailors then do to the reverend Lord
- Gladly make grateful sacrifice of fear:”
and I do not see that Oehler’s reading is much better.
Comp. Matt. xii. 38-41; Luke xi. 29, 30.
These words are not in the original, but are inserted (I confess) to fill up the line, and avoid ending with an incomplete verse. If, however, any one is curious enough to compare the translation, with all its defects, with the Latin, he may be somewhat surprised to find how very little alteration or adaptation is necessary in turning verse into verse.