Jay Parini reads

Precepts

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So did the father, shrewd himself, experienced in choices,
teach his gentle son with words of hard-won truth,
and wishing him to grow in wisdom’s ways:

Do good works always, and your work will prosper.

God will protect you, as he aids the virtuous;
the Devil will confound the works of others.

Teach yourself what’s right, and do this bravely to the end of time.

Love both your parents, kith and kin, if they love God. 

Be faithful to your elders, kind in words; think well of teachers,
and of those who would instruct you in the ways of virtue.

Now the wise old father spoke again:

Obey me now! Do nothing wrong.
Condone no sinfulness in friends or family;
the Ruler will believe you’re an accomplice if you do,
and he will punish you, absolving others, who will surely prosper.

Once again, a third time, this wise father taught his child in heartfelt ways:

Never associate with those beneath you in their virtue.
Choose to be with those bountiful in good and sound suggestions,
wise in parables. Pay no attention to their rank or station.

A fourth time he addressed his child, to emphasize his point:

Stick by your friends, don’t let them down.
Obey this strictly.
You must not deceive those who stay close.

Then a fifth time he regaled his child with heartfelt wisdom:

Avoid all drunkenness and foolish comments,
sinful heart-thoughts, spoken lies.
Beware of anger, spite, and lustfulness for women.
Often those who fall for stranger, exotic women will regret it,
and will leave ashamed. 
In such relations sinfulness takes root, as well as hatefulness of God,
and arrogance as well. Be careful
what you say, and watchful of desires: guard all your words.

Now again, a sixth time, this good man spoke to his son
with kindly feelings:

Be quick to separate all good from evil.
Be clever as you do, and favor goodness over evil.
Sharp minds know one from the other,
and with sure perception opt for goodness.

Now a seventh time the father spoke, teaching his young son what to do:

A wise man will encounter sorrows, too.
But fools will rarely mix real pleasure with a sense of foresight—
not unless they know the enemy quite well.
A man of good will must be careful with his words
and, quietly, consider all his options carefully in every way.

And again, another time he spoke,
this father saying kind words for his young son:

Learn what is taught, and faithfully obey.
Instruct yourself in wisdom.
Put your trust in heaven and its saints.
And speak the truth whenever you would speak.

A ninth time, now, the wise old father showed his wisdom:

So many in our time eschew all scriptures,
and their thuoghts will often be corrupt, their zeal restrained.
They grow undisciplined and hollow.
They pay no heed to what the Ruler says.
And some will suffer torment for their sins.
But turn yourself back always to the scriptures
and the Lord’s clear judgments.
Often people will ignore them—and betray themselves.

A tenth time, full of worry and real fear, the old man spoke to his dear son:

The man who guards himself against all sins of word and deed
makes use of wisdom and advances truth, always in aid of his own soul.
God will increase his talents by degrees.
Whenever her rejects a form of sin, his strength increases.

Do not let anger overwhelm you, even when it rises in your soul.
Let no sharp cutting words disgrace you.
A wise man girds himself against such things.
He should be shrew and moderate as well,
a modest man, prudent by nature, eager to excel in wisdom always.
Thus he will secure his share of happiness among the rest.
Never be quick to slander others, and beware of flattery.

Be slow to judge the worth of others,
and enjoy their good will toward yourself.
Be cheerful always, spirited and loving.

In these ways, son, heed my advice, your father’s wisdom,
keeping pure, remaining virtuous in every way.

Listen to Eric Weiskott read “Precepts” 
in its original Old English
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