A committee of eight Hebrew scholars –
politically balanced between high church
and puritan – produced in Cambridge
University four hundred years ago,
what Tennyson called ‘the greatest poem’,
the King James’ version of The Book of Job.
They were not paid but promised possible
preferment – essential for some comfort
in the church and the groves of academe
of a country racked by civil strife.
Their contribution to the new monarch’s
pursuit of national unity
was ten books: from Chronicles – ‘These are the sons
of Israel…’ – to The Song of Solomon –
‘Let him kiss me with the kisses
of his mouth.’ The Book of Job was the sixth.
Imagine a committee of divines,
an octet of cloistered pedants producing
not a camel but a steed that ‘saith
among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he
smelleth the battle afar off, the
thunder of the captains, and the shouting…’