I. THE TEMPER OF FOLLY.
1. She is excitable and passionate (ver. 13), and may be fitly imaged as the harlot, the actress and mask of genuine feeling.
2. She is irrational, and knows not what is what. True love is not blind, either as to self or its objects.
3. She is like the harlot again in her shamelessness (ver. 14). Folly does not mind exposure, and rushes on publicity.
4. She is solicitous of company (ver. 15). Must have partners in guilt, and companions to keep her in countenance. Fools cannot be happy in solitude, cannot enjoy the sweet and silent charms of nature. Wisdom finds good both in the forest and the city, in the cloister or amidst the "busy hum of men."
5. Folly is gregarious. Wherever there is a crowd, there is something foolish going on (ver. 16). It may be safely said of habitual gatherings in taverns and such places, "mostly fools." The wise man goes apart to recover and strengthen his Individuality; the fool plunges into the throng to forget himself.
6. Folly is sly and secretive (ver. 17). The secret feast is here the illicit pleasure (cf Proverbs 30:20). The fact that people like what they ought not to like all the more because they ought not, is a complex phenomenon of the soul. The sweetness of liberty recovered is in it, and forms its good side. Liberty adds a perfume and spice to every pleasure, no matter what the pleasure may be. Augustine tells how he robbed an orchard as a boy, admitting that he did not want the pears, and arguing that it must therefore have been his depravity that led him to find pleasure in taking them! In the same way one might prove the depravity of the jackdaw that steals a ring. Let us repudiate the affectation of depravity, a great "folly" in its way; and rather draw the wholesome lesson that the love of liberty, of fun - in short, of any healthy exercise of energy, needs direction. The instinct for privacy and liberty gives no less zest to legitimate than to illicit pleasures.
II. THE END OF FOLLY. (Ver. 18.)
1. It is represented under images of darkness and dread. Shadows, "children of death," dead men, departed ghosts, hover about the dwelling of Folly and the persons of her guests. And these, while even they sit at her table amidst feasting and mirth, are already, in the eyes of Wisdom the spectator, in the depths of hell. Thus the shadows of coming ill "darken the ruby of the cup, and dim the splendour of the scene."
2. The indefinable is more impressive in its effect than the definable. As e.g. Burke has felicitously shown in his treatise on 'The Sublime and Beautiful.' The obscure realities of the other world, the mysterious twilight, the chiaro-oscuro of the imagination: in this region is found all that fascinates the mind with hope or terror. If it be asked - What precisely will be the doom of the wicked, the bliss of the righteous? the answer is - Definite knowledge has not been imparted, is impossible, and would have less effect than the vague but positive forms in which the truth is hinted.
3. The indefinable is not the less certain. It is the definite which is contingent, uncertain. Our life is a constant becoming from moment to moment. This of its nature is as indefinable as the melting of darkness into day, or the reverse. - J.
Her guests are in the depths of hell.
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