1 One dead fly makes the perfumer’s ointment give off a rancid stench,
so a little folly can outweigh much wisdom.
Wisdom Can Be Nullified By the Caprice of Rulers
2 A wise person’s good sense protects him,
but a fool’s lack of sense leaves him vulnerable.
3 Even when a fool walks along the road he lacks sense,
and shows everyone what a fool he is.
4 If the anger of the ruler flares up against you, do not resign from your position,
for a calm response can undo great offences.
5 I have seen another misfortune on the earth:
It is an error a ruler makes.
6 Fools are placed in many positions of authority,
while wealthy men sit in lowly positions.
7 I have seen slaves on horseback
and princes walking on foot like slaves.
Wisdom is Needed to Avert Dangers in Everyday Life
8 One who digs a pit may fall into it,
and one who breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
9 One who quarries stones may be injured by them;
one who splits logs may be endangered by them.
10 If an iron axehead is blunt and a workman does not sharpen its edge,
he must exert a great deal of effort;
so wisdom has the advantage of giving success.
11 If the snake should bite before it is charmed,
the snake charmer is in trouble.
Words and Works of Wise Men and Fools
12 The words of a wise person win him favour,
but the words of a fool are self-destructive.
13 At the beginning his words are foolish
and at the end his talk is wicked madness,
14 yet a fool keeps on babbling.
No one knows what will happen;
who can tell him what will happen in the future?
15 The toil of a stupid fool wears him out,
because he does not even know the way to the city.
The Problem with Foolish Rulers
16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is childish,
and your princes feast in the morning!
17 Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobility,
and your princes feast at the proper time – with self-control and not in drunkenness.
18 Because of laziness the roof caves in,
and because of idle hands the house leaks.
19 Feasts are made for laughter,
and wine makes life merry,
but money is the answer for everything.
20 Do not curse a king even in your thoughts,
and do not curse the rich while in your bedroom;
for a bird might report what you are thinking,
or some winged creature might repeat your words.