A Little Foolishness
1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the perfumer to putrefy [and] send forth a vile odor; so does a little folly [in him who is valued for wisdom] outweigh wisdom and honor. 2 A wise man's heart turns him toward his right hand, but a fool's heart toward his left. 3 Even when he who is a fool walks along the road, his heart and understanding fail him, and he says of everyone and to everyone that he is a fool. 4 If the temper of the ruler rises up against you, do not leave your place [or show a resisting spirit]; for gentleness and calmness prevent or put a stop to great offenses.
5 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, like an error which proceeds from the ruler: 6 Folly is set in great dignity and in high places, and the rich sit in low places. 7 I have seen slaves on horses, and princes walking like slaves on the earth.
8 He who digs a pit [for others] will fall into it, and whoever breaks through a fence or a [stone] wall, a serpent will bite him. 9 Whoever removes [landmark] stones or hews out [new ones with similar intent] will be hurt with them, and he who fells trees will be endangered by them. 10 If the ax is dull and the man does not whet the edge, he must put forth more strength; but wisdom helps him to succeed. 11 If the serpent bites before it is charmed, then it is no use to call a charmer [and the slanderer is no better than the uncharmed snake]. 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 the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is wicked madness. 14 A fool also multiplies words, though no man can tell what will be -- "and what will happen after he is gone, who can tell him? 15 The labor of fools wearies every one of them, because [he is so ignorant of the ordinary matters that] he does not even know how to get to town. 16 Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child or a servant and when your officials feast in the morning! 17 Happy (fortunate and to be envied) are you, O land, when your king is a free man and of noble birth and character and when your officials feast at the proper time -- "for strength and not for drunkenness! 18 Through indolence the rafters [of state affairs] decay and the roof sinks in, and through idleness of the hands the house leaks. 19 [Instead of repairing the breaches, the officials] make a feast for laughter, serve wine to cheer life, and [depend on tax] money to answer for all of it. 20 Curse not the king, no, not even in your thoughts, and curse not the rich in your bedchamber, for a bird of the air will carry the voice, and a winged creature will tell the matter.