New English Translation
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 offenses.
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 axhead 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 favor, 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.
King James Version
1 Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.
2 A wise man's heart is at his right hand; but a fool's heart at his left.
3 Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.
4 If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.
5 There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, as an error which proceedeth from the ruler:
6 Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.
7 I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth.
8 He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it; and whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him.
9 Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby.
10 If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct.
11 Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment; and a babbler is no better.
12 The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.
13 The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.
14 A fool also is full of words: a man cannot tell what shall be; and what shall be after him, who can tell him?
15 The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city.
16 ¶ Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!
17 Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles, and thy princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!
18 ¶ By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.
19 ¶ A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.
20 ¶ Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.