Lamentations 3:13-36

Every piercing arrow from the bow of God has entered my entrails, my heart
Each onlooker with wrinkled eyes of mirth, with ecstatic giggling taunts
Eating, I am filled with bitter nothing, drinking, I am sated with acid thirst

Frequently grinding gravel, ivory gnawing, I cower covered in dust
Forgetting Shalom, in which my soul once rested, now bereft, forgetting goodness
Falteringly stuttering, “My endurance—his splendor, my hope—from YHWH, have failed”

“God, remember, my homelessness, my bitter acid, my poison”
Grievously, I remember. My soul remembers and fails
Gathering memories, my heart stumbles on this, and I hope

His covenant love is not spent; his mercies do not end
He renews them each morning; YHWH’s faithfulness is great
Hope raises its eyes to him; he is my soul’s possession

Indeed, YHWH is good to those who hope, to the soul that seeks him
It is good to wait, silently, for the salvation of YHWH
It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth

Juvenile, injudicious, he must sit alone, sit silently, when yoke is put on him
Jaw set, genuflect, lip kissing dust, on chance of hope
Jutting jaw now turned to receive patiently, reproaching blows

Knowing, the Lord does not cast off forever
Knowing, though suing suffering, he will pity from his great love
Knowing, he does afflict, but not from his heart, nor grieves the children of men

Languishing slaves, pressed to the earth to work it, he will not crush underfoot
Laid bare and vulnerable, they have rights before the face of the Most High
Legally oppressed, their claim is not unseen; defraud not sanctioned by the Lord

Advertisements

Lamentations 3:1-12

Affliction alone I have experienced under the rod of his wrath
Abeyant, ambled aimlessly to captivity, driven desperately in the dark
Attacking me alone, he turns and returns his fist relentlessly

Broke my bones, he scraped off my skin and flesh, worn like a garment
Built battlements enveloping me with bitterness and woe
Beleaguered by darkness and despair I sit as one long dead

Callously he has clamped and cramped me with walls, shackles I can’t escape
Calling, crying for help, my prayers are also caged
Cut paths made crooked and obstructed, choked with stones

Devouring creatures lurk, stealthy bear and stalking lion; they are YHWH, who
Dismembered me where I fled, and left me a carcass, desolate
Deftly toying with me, his target, as a bowman aims for sport

Lamentations 2:13-22

This is an continuation of my alliterated Lamentations translation, the rest of which can be found here:

1:1-6 // 1:7-12 // 1:13-22 // 2:1-6 // 2:7-12

The aim of this translation is to produce something like “aesthetic faithfulness” to the original, or at least to get a bit closer. I’m not sure I’ve encountered other English translations that have set out to do this.

Metaphors fail for you, daughter Jerusalem
What does your suffering mean? What can I say?
What could bring comfort do you, virgin Daughter?
Who can heal wounds deeper than the sea?

Nugatory and sham visions the prophets imagined
Not exposing your vice, restoring your fortunes
For you they saw, false fortunes, comforting chimeras

Onlookers mock you with jeering gestures, passing by
Leering heads hiss vicious cuts at Jerusalem, Daughter
Did we call this place Beauty realized? Joy of our land?

Pompous enemies spread yawning jowls jeering
Hissing, whistling, gnashing, baring yellowed ivory
Their cry, “we have swallowed her!”
“For this day we hoped, it came, we taste!”

Resolutely YHWH has done what he purposed
His words, fulfilled, have knifed, threats from long ago
He has no pity on us; the enemy has joy over us
He has exalted the might of those who kill us

Squall and shout from your hearts to YHWH
You broken defenders of daughter Zion
Let your tears run the channels of the river
Day and night, do not stop their flow
Neither allow your eyes relief

Take your place on broken ramparts to sing your grief
During early hours, when watchmen would worry
Pour out your heart like water before the Lord
Lift up your hands to him…over children starving, dying
On every street

Under the gaze of YHWH, these children die, Look! See!
Who have you ever treated this way?
Should women eat their own fruit? The children they love?
Should someone be slain in God’s sanctuary? Priest? Prophet?

Wasted in the dust of the earth
Are the corpses of our men, boys and aged
Virgins and suitors equally emptied by the sword
You slaughtered them in the day of your anger
You butchered them without pity

You summoned as if to a celebration my terrors on every side
Not on this day, the day of YHWH’s anger
No one escaped, no one survived
Children I held in my arms, and raised in hope
My enemy has destroyed

Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”

Hopkins_TackGlory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

John Donne, “The Anatomy of the World”

John Donne laments that a sort of wisdom by which the world had “coherence” is dead, and only her ghost haunts his forever changed world. Donne lived during the great overturning of the Elizabethan world picture. That world and its wisdom are so dead now that we scarcely remember what they were (Lewis and Tillyard, e.g.).

So, why is it worth remembering? It is worth remembering that the past four hundred years have been a spasm of recovering a world that made sense, that the spasm is subsiding at a blinding speed. Science has brought us stunning technology, but not more wisdom. Donne would surely wail the louder for Western Civilization today. We are left with competing claims for power, a deep loneliness, and a groaning to be reconciled to ourselves, our world, and a God we cannot seem to reach.


She, of whom th’ancients seem’d to prophesy,
When they call’d virtues by the name of she;
She in whom virtue was so much refin’d,
That for alloy unto so pure a mind
She took the weaker sex; she that could drive
The poisonous tincture, and the stain of Eve,
Out of her thoughts, and deeds, and purify
All, by a true religious alchemy,
She, she is dead; she’s dead: when thou knowest this,
Thou knowest how poor a trifling thing man is,
And learn’st thus much by our anatomy,
The heart being perish’d, no part can be free,
And that except thou feed (not banquet) on
The supernatural food, religion,

So did the world from the first hour decay,
That evening was beginning of the day,
And now the springs and summers which we see,
Like sons of women after fifty be.
And new philosophy calls all in doubt,
The element of fire is quite put out,
The sun is lost, and th’earth, and no man’s wit
Can well direct him where to look for it.
And freely men confess that this world’s spent,
When in the planets and the firmament
They seek so many new; they see that this
Is crumbled out again to his atomies.
‘Tis all in pieces, all coherence gone,
All just supply, and all relation;
Prince, subject, father, son, are things forgot,
For every man alone thinks he hath got
To be a phoenix, and that then can be
None of that kind, of which he is, but he.
This is the world’s condition now, and now
She that should all parts to reunion bow,
She that had all magnetic force alone,
To draw, and fasten sund’red parts in one;
She whom wise nature had invented then
When she observ’d that every sort of men
Did in their voyage in this world’s sea stray,
And needed a new compass for their way;
She that was best and first original
Of all fair copies, and the general
Steward to fate; she whose rich eyes and breast
Gilt the West Indies, and perfum’d the East;
Whose having breath’d in this world, did bestow
Spice on those Isles, and bade them still smell so,
And that rich India which doth gold inter,
Is but as single money, coin’d from her;
She to whom this world must it self refer,
As suburbs or the microcosm of her,
She, she is dead; she’s dead: when thou know’st this,
Thou know’st how lame a cripple this world is

John Donne, “An Anatomy of the World

Also, just for fun, my very poor attempt at reading with a 17th century (like) accent. I like to read poetry aloud to really experience it, and so I just hit record as I did so (purify and alchemy are all wrong I think).

Luxuria: The Temptation of Lilith

John’a poem from C.S. Lewis’s The Pilgrim’s Regress

When Lilith means to draw me
Within her secret bower,
She does not overawe me
With beauty’s pomp and power,

Nor, with angelic grace
Of courtesy, and the pace
Of gliding ships, comes veiled at evening hour.

Eager, unmasked, she lingers
Heart-sick and hunger sore
With hot, dry, jewelled fingers
Stretched out, beside her door,

Offering with gnawing haste Her cup, whereof who taste, (She promises no better) thirst far more.

What moves me, then, to drink it?
—Her spells, which all around
So change the land, we think it
A great waste where a sound
Of wind like tales twice told
Blusters, and cloud is rolled Always above yet no rain falls to ground.

Across drab iteration
Of bare hills, line on line,
The long road’s sinuation
Leads on. The witch’s wine,
Though promising nothing, seems
In that land of no streams,
To promise best—the unrelished anodyne.

An Essay on Man: Epistle II, Alexander Pope

An excerpt from “An Essay on Man: Epistle II” by Alexander Pope (as printed in Comment magazine)

Know, then, thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule—
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!