A Strain of Jonah the Prophet.

Early Christian Writings

Title: Tertullian: A Strain of Jonah the Prophet.

Subheading: (CCEL Part Fourth. – Appendix)


Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol IV. (Part.IV)

Τὰ ἀρχαῖα ἔθη κρατείτω. The Nicene Council

Original Source: CCEL

Related Linkearlychristianwritings.com

Translated by: Rev. S. Thelwall

By: Tertullianus, Quintus Septimius

Published: 197-220 A.D.

(PDF File Size: xx mb) xx pages

Our Ref:

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of religious, environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material; the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. For purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


A Strain of Jonah the Prophet.

After the living, aye—enduring death 127
Of Sodom and Gomorrah; after fires
Penal, attested by time-frosted plains
Of ashes; after fruitless apple-growths,

5 Born but to feed the eye; after the death
Of sea and brine, both in like fate involved;
While whatsoe’er is human still retains
In change corporeal its penal badge:
A city—Nineveh—by stepping o’er

10 The path of justice and of equity,
On her own head had well-nigh shaken down
More fires of rain supernal. For what dread
Dwells in a mind subverted? Commonly
Tokens of penal visitations prove

15 All vain where error holds possession. Still,
Kindly and patient of our waywardness,
And slow to punish, the Almighty Lord
Will launch no shaft of wrath, unless He first
Admonish and knock oft at hardened hearts,

20 Rousing with mind august presaging seers.
For to the merits of the Ninevites
The Lord had bidden Jonah to foretell
Destruction; but he, conscious that He spare;
The subject, and remits to suppliants

25 The dues of penalty, and is to good
Ever inclinable, was loth to face
That errand; lest he sing his seerly strain
In vain, and peaceful issue of his threats
Ensue. His counsel presently is flight:

30 (If, howsoe’er, there is at all the power
God to avoid, and shun the Lord’s right hand
’Neath whom the whole orb trembles and is held
In check: but is there reason in the act
Which in his saintly heart the prophet dares?)

35 On the beach-lip, over against the shores
Of the Cilicians, is a city poised,
Far-famed for trusty port—Joppa her name.
Thence therefore Jonah speeding in a barque
Seeks Tarsus, through the signal providence

40 Of the same God; nor marvel is’t, I ween,
If, fleeing from the Lord upon the lands,
He found Him in the waves. For suddenly
A little cloud had stained the lower air
With fleecy wrack sulphureous, itself

45 By the wind’s seed excited: by degrees,
Bearing a brood globose, it with the sun
Cohered, and with a train caliginous
Shut in the cheated day. The main becomes
The mirror of the sky; the waves are dyed so

50 With black encirclement; the upper air
Down rushes into darkness, and the sea
Uprises; nought of middle space is left;
While the clouds touch the waves, and the waves all
Are mingled by the bluster of the winds

55 In whirling eddy. ’Gainst the renegade,
’Gainst Jonah, diverse frenzy joined to rave,
While one sole barque did all the struggle breed
’Twixt sky and surge. From this side and from that
Pounded she reels; ’neath each wave-breaking blow

60 The forest of her tackling trembles all;
As, underneath, her spinal length of keel, 128
Staggered by shock on shock, all palpitates;
And, from on high, her labouring mass of yard
Creaks shuddering; and the tree-like mast itself

65 Bends to the gale, misdoubting to be riven.
Meantime the rising clamour of the crew
Tries every chance for barque’s and dear life’s sake:
To pass from hand to hand the tardy coils
To tighten the girth’s noose: straitly to bind

70 The tiller’s struggles; or, with breast opposed,
T’ impel reluctant curves. Part, turn by turn,
With foremost haste outbale the reeking well
Of inward sea. The wares and cargo all
They then cast headlong, and with losses seek

75 Their perils to subdue. At every crash
Of the wild deep rise piteous cries; and out
They stretch their hands to majesties of gods,
Which gods are none; whom might of sea and sky
Fears not, nor yet the less from off their poops

80 With angry eddy sweeping sinks them down.
Unconscious of all this, the guilty one
’Neath the poop’s hollow arch was making sleep
Re-echo stertorous with nostril wide
Inflated: whom, so soon as he who guides

85 The functions of the wave-dividing prow
Saw him sleep-bound in placid peace, and proud
In his repose, he, standing o’er him, shook,
And said, “Why sing’st, with vocal nostril, dreams,
In such a crisis? In so wild a whirl,

90 Why keep’st thou only harbour? Lo! the wave
Whelms us, and our one hope is in the gods.
Thou also, whosoever is thy god,
Make vows, and, pouring prayers on bended knee,

Win o’er thy country’s Sovran!”

Then they vote

95 To learn by lot who is the culprit, who
The cause of storm; nor does the lot belie
Jonah: whom then they ask, and ask again,
“Who? whence? who in the world? from what abode,
What people, hail’st thou?” He avows himself

100 A servant, and an over-timid one,
Of God, who raised aloft the sky, who based
The earth, who corporally fused the whole:
A renegade from Him he owns himself,
And tells the reason. Rigid turned they all

105 With dread. “What grudge, then, ow’st thou us? What now
Will follow? By what deed shall we appease
The main?” For more and far more swelling grew
The savage surges. Then the seer begins
Words prompted by the Spirit of the Lord:

110 “Lo! I your tempest am; I am the sum
Of the world’s madness: ’tis in me,” he says,
“That the sea rises, and the upper air
Down rushes; land in me is far, death near,
And hope in God is none! Come, headlong hurl

115 Your cause of bane: lighten your ship, and cast
This single mighty burden to the main,
A willing prey!” But they—all vainly!—strive
Homeward to turn their course; for helm refused
To suffer turning, and the yard’s stiff poise

120 Willed not to change. At last unto the Lord
They cry: “For one soul’s sake give us not o’er
Unto death’s maw, nor let us be besprent
With righteous blood, if thus Thine own right hand
Leadeth.” And from the eddy’s depth a whale

125 Outrising on the spot, scaly with shells,
Unravelling his body’s train, ’gan urge
More near the waves, shocking the gleaming brine,
Seizing—at God’s command—the prey; which, rolled
From the poop’s summit prone, with slimy jaws

130 He sucked; and into his long belly sped
The living feast; and swallowed, with the man,
The rage of sky and main. The billowy waste
Grows level, and the ether’s gloom dissolves;
The waves on this side, and the blasts on that,

135 Are to their friendly mood restored; and, where 129
The placid keel marks out a path secure,
White traces in the emerald furrow bloom.
The sailor then does to the reverend Lord
Of death make grateful offering of his fear;

140 Then enters friendly ports.

Jonah the seer

The while is voyaging, in other craft

Embarked, and cleaving ’neath the lowest waves
A wave: his sails the intestines of the fish,
Inspired with breath ferine; himself, shut in;

145 By waters, yet untouched; in the sea’s heart
And yet beyond its reach; ’mid wrecks of fleets
Half-eaten, and men’s carcasses dissolved
In putrid disintegrity: in life
Learning the process of his death; but still—

150 To be a sign hereafter of the Lord—
A witness was he (in his very self),
Not of destruction, but of death’s repulse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.