A Little Foolishness
1Dead flies make the oil of the perfumer give off a foul odor; so a little foolishness [in one who is esteemed] outweighs wisdom and honor. 2 A wise man’s heart turns him toward the right [which is the way of blessing], but a fool’s heart turns him toward the left [which is the way of condemnation]. 3 Even when a fool walks along the road, his [common] sense and good judgment fail him and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool. 4 If the temper of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your post [showing resistance], because composure and calmness prevent great offenses.
5 There is an evil I have seen under the sun, like an error which proceeds from the ruler— 6 folly is set in many exalted places and in great dignity while the rich sit in humble places. 7 I have seen slaves riding on horses and princes walking like slaves on the ground.
8 He who digs a pit [for others] may fall into it, and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a [stone] wall. 9 He who quarries stones may be hurt with them, and he who splits logs may be endangered by them. 10 If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength; but wisdom [to sharpen the axe] helps him succeed [with less effort]. 11 If the serpent bites before being charmed, then there is no profit for the charmer. 12 The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious and win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him; 13 the beginning of [a]his talking is foolishness and the end of his talk is wicked madness. 14 Yet the fool multiplies words, though no man knows what will happen, and who can tell him what will come after he is gone? 15 The labor of a fool so wearies him [because he is ignorant] that he does not even know how to go to a city. 16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child and when your [incompetent] officials and princes feast in the morning. 17 Blessed [prosperous and admired] are you, O land, when your king is a man of noble birth, and your princes and officials feast at the proper time—for strength and not for drunkenness. 18 Through laziness the rafters [of state affairs] decay and the roof sags, and through idleness [the roof of] the house leaks. 19 The officials make a feast for enjoyment [instead of repairing what is broken], and serve wine to make life merry, and money is the answer to everything. 20 Moreover, do not curse the king, even in your bedroom, and in your sleeping rooms do not curse the rich, for a bird of the air will carry the sound and a winged creature will make the matter known.