4 1-3 Next I turned my attention to all the outrageous violence that takes place on this planet—the tears of the victims, no one to comfort them; the iron grip of oppressors, no one to rescue the victims from them. So I congratulated the dead who are already dead instead of the living who are still alive. But luckier than the dead or the living is the person who has never even been, who has never seen the bad business that takes place on this earth.
4 Then I observed all the work and ambition motivated by envy. What a waste! Smoke. And spitting into the wind.
5 The fool sits back and takes it easy,
His sloth is slow suicide.
6 One handful of peaceful repose
Is better than two fistfuls of worried work—
More spitting into the wind.
Why Am I Working Like a Dog?
7-8 I turned my head and saw yet another wisp of smoke on its way to nothingness: a solitary person, completely alone—no children, no family, no friends—yet working obsessively late into the night, compulsively greedy for more and more, never bothering to ask, “Why am I working like a dog, never having any fun? And who cares?” More smoke. A bad business.
9-10 It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!
11 Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.
12 By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.
* * *
13-16 A poor child with some wisdom is better off than an old but foolish king who doesn’t know which end is up. I saw a youth just like this start with nothing and go from rags to riches, and I saw everyone rally to the rule of this young successor to the king. Even so, the excitement died quickly, the throngs of people soon lost interest. Can’t you see it’s only smoke? And spitting into the wind?