‘Business in Great Waters’

I jotted on the fly several snatches of phraseology that resonated with me today as I watched Prince Philip’s live-streamed funeral service on the BBC.

May what power that is deal graciously with those who mourn, and those who go down to the sea to occupy their business in great waters. (To the coffin:) May thy portion this day be in peace.

Strung together out of order from their hearing and with a slight periphrasis of mine, the phrases devise a hortatory reverential statement that I could imagine uttering, being myself neither practicing religionist nor monarchist.

To be honest, I tuned in for the promised trumpet fanfare. The confession I make is to a weakness for British grand ceremony. What preceded the trumpets had to be got through in order to reach the enjoyment of them.

The sacred music, admirably confined to four voices, was dominant and over-long as always. Several bars of fewer tunes would suffice.

The Dean’s unmannered reading of the text from Ecclesiastes was refreshing. I credit the British with knowing poetry is about words and not performance.

And the phrase “occupy their business in great waters” is what prompted this comment. It reminds me of how gloriously the King James translators foundered over Semitic turns in their source texts. In being literal with strangeness they forged from air the grandiose oddity of “biblical” English that even Englishmen revere.

*Image from WPA Pool/Getty Images, Mike Duff, “Prince Philip Spent His Life With Land Rovers, and This One Will Carry Him to His Funeral,” caranddriver.com, 4-16-21)

(c) 2021 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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