“Pilgrim’s Problem,” by C.S. Lewis

By now I should be entering on the supreme stage
Of the whole walk, reserved for the late afternoon.
The heat was to be over now; the anxious mountains,
The airless valleys and the sun-baked rocks, behind me.

Now, or soon now, if all is well, come the majestic
Rivers of foamless charity that glide beneath
Forests of contemplation. In the grassy clearings
Humility with liquid eyes and damp, cool nose
Should come, half-tame, to eat bread from my hermit hand.
If storms arose, then in my tower of fortitude–
It ought to have been in sight by this–I would take refuge;
But I expected rather a pale mackerel sky,
Feather-like, perhaps shaking from a lower cloud
Light drops of silver temperance, and clovery earth
Sending up mists of chastity, a country smell,
Till earnest stars blaze out in the established sky
Rigid with justice; the streams audible; my rest secure.

I can see nothing like all this. Was the map wrong?
Maps can be wrong. But the experienced walker knows
That the other explanation is more often true.

Lamentations 5:12-22

Princes they hung by their hands, respect they stripped from the elders

Young men rattle the millstone, boys stagger under their loads

Wise elders have abandoned the gates, young men quit their songs

Our hearts have abandoned their joy, our bodies that danced now mourn

The crown has crashed from our head, woe to us, sinners

In all these things, our hearts retch, in all these things our eyes swim

Mount Zion is desolate, foxes forage, scavenge its hill

You, YHWH, are enthroned forever, from generation to generation

Why do you forget us forever? Why have you forsaken us so long?

Bring us back to you, so we return, and renew the days of old

Unless you have utterly rejected us, and are settled in your anger

Lamentations 5:1-11

Lord, remember what has happened to us; look at us; see our disgrace

Our possessions were given to strangers, our homes to squatters

We are fatherless, orphans, our mothers are widows

We pay for our water, and also our wood to heat and to eat

We are constantly exploited, we are weary without rest

We’ve pledged to Egypt and to Assyria, simply to eat our bread

Our fathers sinned and are dead, while we bear their iniquity

Slaves delight to rule us, we’ve no escape from their whip

We exchange our lives for our food, the sword sneaks in the wilderness

Our skins burn like fire, the fever of hunger

The women of Zion they raped, the virgins of the city of Judah

Lamentations 4:15-22

Outraged, they cry, “Turn aside! Unclean! Turn aside! Do not touch us!”
The roaches scatter incoherently; “they cannot stay,” it is said among the tribes

Personally, YHWH has shattered and scattered them away from his protective watch
The priests are not esteemed, the elders not revered

Ragged, weary eyes failed, vainly peering for unpromised help
From exposed towers we watched for a nation that would not save us

Steps marked by enemy hunters, poachers sighted us in deserted streets
Our lives had been spent, their days counted to the bitter end

Those who stalked us swooped deadly swift like the eagles of the heavens
Relentlessly pursuing us onto the mountains only to ambush us in the wilderness

Unexpectedly, our breath of life, YHWH’s anointed king, was caught in their snare
Of whom we had said, “We live in his shadow, his shelter from the nations”

Well up in triumph! Rejoice! Daughters of Edom, who dwell in the land of Uz, for now!
You too will drink from this cup; you will be drunk and exposed

Your iniquity is full and finished, Daughter Zion, the exile will not always endure
But YHWH will avenge your iniquity, daughter Edom; he will expose your sins

Lamentations 4:8-14

Humiliated, they now vaunt black visage, sooty features grimace,
Not recognized in the streets, shriveled tree-bark skin shrouds bones

It is fortunate to have died, better to be violated by the sword than by hunger
Wasting slowly, pierced by pangs of the fruitless wasted fields

Juicy morsels of children have grimed the compassionate fingers of loving mothers
They, delicate fare for my cracked daughter people

Kettle whistling, the boiling wrath of God was fit, fiercely to pour;
He scorched Zion melting its foundations

Long unimaginable, neither the kings of the land, nor the inhabitants of the world
Could brave belief of an enemy entering the gates of Jerusalem

My eyes have seen it, by the sins of her prophets, by the iniquity of her priests;
They poured out an offering in the midst of the people, the blood of the righteous

Noxious, unclean, the blind men wander madly in the streets
Defiled by the blood they poured, so no one risks touching their garments

Lamentations 4:1-7

Awe-full aurum has lost its glittering gold, even perfect gold is dimmed
Abandoned jewels lie scattered in the crossings of the streets

Boys, the sons of Zion, its true treasure of gold
Are like scattered shards, littered broken pottery, fashioned then destroyed

Crazed and cruel we have become, like Ostriches choosing children to live
Even jackals offer their teats to nurse their young, but not our daughters

Dry tongues stick to dry palates of dehydrated suckling innocents
Shy children solicit bread from shamefaced agèd who avert their eyes

Easy connoisseurs, fattened by delicacies, dwindle to dust in the streets
Darlings adorned with dyes now dying amidst the refuse

Far greater than the punishment of Sodom, is this iniquity done to my people
Whose overthrow was but a moment, without the contorted hands of panic

Grand devotees dazzled like snow, Nazarites purer than milk
Their bodies salmon like coral pearls, their hair cobalt like lapis lazuli

Lamentations 3:37-66

Men’s mouths assert their power to will; all fail but the
Mouth of the Lord, when it speaks, so it is, both good and bad
May mere men moan, when weak sons of Adam suffer for their sins?

No, we must examine our ways, test them, and from this dust
Now raise our hearts and hands to the God of the heavens
Nevertheless, we have transgressed and rebelled, but you have not forgiven

Obscured, you dressed yourself in anger, pursued us to butcher us without pity
Obscured, you covered yourself with a cloud, choking our prayers from the sky
Offscouring and feces you’ve made us under the shoes of the nations

Prating tongues through parted lips pour down proud exaltation from enemy overseers
Panic and pitfall engulf us, plunging us into fracture and forlorn
Plowing tears furrow my cheeks, springing desert wadis for my shattered daughter people

Relentlessly, torrentially, the tears flow, a deep spring unceasing and unbreaking
Raining, wetting the dust until YHWH stoops to see from the heavens
Reminding my soul how deep is this well of grief for the daughters of my city

Stalked like prey, I have been, hunted, without provocation
Scrapped and stuffed solitary into a pit, penned, trapped, then stoned
Swelling, surging waves of destruction came over me; I studied death

Then I cried up, “YHWH!” from the lowest depth of this pit, this grave
This cry, you heard. “Do not close your ears to relieving my plight!”
Then you came near when I called, you said, “Do not be afraid”

Unfaltering the Lord has taken up my cause, redeeming my life from the pit
Undertaking to notice the unrelenting oppression, my exploitation; he judges my case
Unseen became seen, all their vengefulness, their cleverly devised atrocity

When they taunted, you indeed heard it, YHWH; when they plotted, you saw
While I unaware, their lips spoke daily treason against me, their minds devised domination over me
Witness their sitting and rising, the habits of evil; I am the one they mock!

YHWH, you will return the investment of cruelty to the measure their hands have earned
You will give them a tortured, anguished heart, may your curse engulf them
You will pursue them in anger, and erase them from under your heavens