The keynote of Ecclesiastes seems to be that all is vanity; that nothing in the universe as known by our five senses can afford satisfaction. In this some critics have discerned Buddhistic influence, at all events that part of Sakyamuni's teaching which accentuates the drawbacks of imbodied life, though it discloses but little trace of those "eight noble truths" which he proclaimed for our escape and final triumph. The passage quoted here is a masterly treatment of "the lean and slippered pantaloon," and the "last stage of all," of Shakespeare's famous "ages," and we could wish the writer had included in his scope the earlier five as well. Never has the falling asleep of the faculties been portrayed with quainter, tenderer pathos. The waning forces of the arms and legs, the failing teeth, the dimming of the vision are delineated by exquisite metaphors. The easily disturbed repose of aged people, their voice, their dread of traffic all are indicated by a fine, sure touch. An old man's crown of glory, his white hair, is likened to an almond blossom whose pink petals have exactly the appearance of white hair against a background of bald head. There is a touch of quaint, but not unkindly humor in the comparison of the old man with bended elbow leaning on a staff, to some poor injured grasshopper; and the dull palate which the accustomed condiment fails to arouse is not forgotten. The meaning of the "golden bowl" and "silver cord" is not upon the surface and would appear to indicate a knowledge on the writer's part of some esoteric teaching as regards man's constitution.
Youth is so apt to be intoxicated with the taste of sensuous though innocent delights, that it is well to be reminded now and then that all these fountains must one day be dry, and that perennial springs of satisfaction rise in the Soul alone. The life whose living is enduring joy is the Soul-life, that steady flame which long outlives our youthful vigor, burning as brightly in the wasted forms of aged people as in the fresh young forms of childhood.
"Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is to behold the sun. Yea if a man live many years let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember the days of darkness for they shall be many. Remember also thy Creator in the days of thy youth, or ever the evil days come, or the years draw nigh when thou shalt say: I have no pleasure in them; or ever the sun, and the light and the moon, and the stars be darkened, and the clouds return after the rain; in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the street; when the sound of the grinding is low, and one shall rise up at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low; yea they shall be afraid of danger from on high, and terrors shall be in the way; and the almond tree shall blossom, and the grasshopper shall drag itself along; because man goeth to his long home and the mourners go about the streets; or ever the silver cord be snapped asunder, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit return to God who gave it."
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE