Verse > John Donne > The Poems of John Donne
John Donne (1572–1631).  The Poems of John Donne.  1896.
Divine Poems
The Lamentations of Jeremy
For the Most Part According to Tremellius

1.  HOW sits this city, late most populous,
  Thus solitary, and like a widow thus?
  Amplest of nations, queen of provinces
  She was, who now thus tributary is?
2.  Still in the night she weeps, and her tears fall        5
  Down by her cheeks along, and none of all
  Her lovers comfort her; perfidiously
  Her friends have dealt, and now are enemy.
3.  Unto great bondage, and afflictions,
  Judah is captive led; those nations        10
  With whom she dwells, no place of rest afford;
  In straits she meets her persecutors’ sword.
4.  Empty are the gates of Sion, and her ways
  Mourn, because none come to her solemn days.
  Her priests do groan, her maids are comfortless;        15
  And she’s unto herself a bitterness.
5.  Her foes are grown her head, and live at peace,
  Because, when her transgressions did increase,
  The Lord strook her with sadness; the enemy
  Doth drive her children to captivity.        20
6.  From Sion’s daughter is all beauty gone;
  Like harts which seek for pasture, and find none,
  Her princes are; and now before the foe
  Which still pursues them, without strength they go.
7.  Now in their days of tears, Jerusalem        25
  —Her men slain by the foe, none succouring them—
  Remembers what of old she esteemed most,
  Whiles her foes laugh at her, for what she hath lost.
8.  Jerusalem hath sinn’d, therefore is she
  Removed, as women in uncleanness be;        30
  Who honour’d, scorn her, for her foulness they
  Have seen; herself doth groan, and turn away.
9.  Her foulness in her skirts was seen, yet she
  Remember’d not her end; miraculously
  Therefore she fell, none comforting; behold,        35
  O Lord, my affliction, for the foe grows bold.
10.  Upon all things where her delight hath been,
  The foe hath stretch’d his hand, for she hath seen
  Heathen, whom thou command’st should not do so,
  Into her holy sanctuary go.        40
11.  And all her people groan, and seek for bread;
  And they have given, only to be fed,
  All precious things, wherein their pleasure lay;
  How cheap I’m grown, O Lord, behold, and weigh.
12.  All this concerns not you, who pass by me;        45
  O see, and mark if any sorrow be
  Like to my sorrow, which Jehovah hath
  Done to me in the day of His fierce wrath?
13.  That fire, which by Himself is governed,
  He hath cast from heaven on my bones, and spread        50
  A net before my feet, and me o’erthrown,
  And made me languish all the day alone.
14.  His hand hath of my sins framèd a yoke
  Which wreathed, and cast upon my neck, hath broke
  My strength; the Lord unto those enemies        55
  Hath given me, from whom I cannot rise.
15.  He under foot hath trodden in my sight
  My strong men; He did company accite
  To break my young men; He the winepress hath
  Trod upon Judah’s daughter in His wrath.        60
16.  For these things do I weep; mine eye, mine eye
  Casts water out; for He which should be nigh
  To comfort me, is now departed far;
  The foe prevails, forlorn my children are.
17.  There’s none, though Sion do stretch out her hand,        65
  To comfort her; it is the Lord’s command
  That Jacob’s foes girt him; Jerusalem
  Is as an unclean woman amongst them.
18.  But yet the Lord is just, and righteous still;
  I have rebell’d against His holy will;        70
  O hear all people, and my sorrow see,
  My maids, my young men in captivity.
19.  I called for my lovers then, but they
  Deceived me, and my priests, and elders lay
  Dead in the city; for they sought for meat        75
  Which should refresh their souls, and none could get.
20.  Because I am in straits, Jehovah, see!
  My heart o’erturn’d, my bowels muddy be;
  Because I have rebell’d so much, as fast
  The sword without, as death within, doth waste.        80
21.  Of all which here I mourn, none comforts me;
  My foes have heard my grief, and glad they be,
  That Thou hast done it; but Thy promised day
  Will come, when, as I suffer, so shall they.
22.  Let all their wickedness appear to Thee;        85
  Do unto them, as Thou hast done to me,
  For all my sins; the sighs which I have had
  Are very many, and my heart is sad.
1.  HOW over Sion’s daughter hath God hung
  His wrath’s thick cloud? and from heaven hath flung        90
  To earth the beauty of Israel, and hath
  Forgot His foot-stool in the day of wrath?
2.  The Lord unsparingly hath swallowed
  All Jacob’s dwellings, and demolished
  To ground the strength of Judah, and profaned        95
  The Princes of the kingdom, and the land.
3.  In heat of wrath the horn of Israel He
  Hath clean cut off, and lest the enemy
  Be hinder’d, His right hand He doth retire,
  But is towards Jacob all-devouring fire.        100
4.  Like to an enemy He bent His bow;
  His right hand was in posture of a foe,
  To kill what Sion’s daughter did desire,
  ’Gainst whom His wrath He poured forth like fire.
5.  For like an enemy Jehovah is,        105
  Devouring Israel, and his palaces,
  Destroying holds, giving additions
  To Judah’s daughters’ lamentations.
6.  Like to a garden hedge He hath cast down
  The place where was His congregation,        110
  And Sion’s feasts and sabbaths are forgot;
  Her King, her Priest, His wrath regardeth not.
7.  The Lord forsakes His altar, and detests
  His sanctuary, and in the foes’ hands rests
  His palace, and the walls, in which their cries        115
  Are heard, as in the true solemnities.
8.  The Lord hath cast a line, so to confound
  And level Sion’s walls unto the ground;
  He draws not back His hand, which doth o’erturn
  The wall, and rampart, which together mourn.        120
9.  Their 1 gates are sunk into the ground, and He
  Hath broke the bar; their king and princes be
  Amongst the heathen, without law, nor there
  Unto their prophets doth the Lord appear.
10.  There Sion’s elders on the ground are placed,        125
  And silence keep; dust on their heads they cast;
  In sackcloth have they girt themselves, and low
  The virgins towards ground their heads do throw.
11.  My bowels are grown muddy, and mine eyes
  Are faint with weeping; and my liver lies        130
  Pour’d out upon the ground, for misery
  That sucking children in the streets do die.
12.  When they had cried unto their mothers, “Where
  Shall we have bread, and drink?” they fainted there,
  And in the street like wounded persons lay,        135
  Till ’twixt their mothers’ breasts they went away.
13.  Daughter Jerusalem, O what may be
  A witness, or comparison for thee?
  Sion, to ease thee, what shall I name like thee?
  Thy breach is like the sea; what help can be?        140
14.  For thee vain foolish things thy prophets sought;
  Thee, thine iniquities they have not taught,
  Which might disturb thy bondage; but for thee
  False burthens, and false causes they would see.
15.  The passengers do clap their hands, and hiss        145
  And wag their head at thee, and say, “Is this
  That city, which so many men did call
  Joy of the earth, and perfectest of all?”
16.  Thy foes do gape upon thee, and they hiss,
  And gnash their teeth, and say, “Devour we this,        150
  For this is certainly the day which we
  Expected, and which now we find, and see.”
17.  The Lord hath done that which He purposèd;
  Fulfill’d His word of old determined;
  He hath thrown down, and not spared, and thy foe        155
  Made glad above thee, and advanced him so.
18.  But now their hearts unto the Lord do call;
  Therefore, O walls of Sion, let tears fall
  Down like a river, day and night; take thee
  No rest, but let thine eye incessant be.        160
19.  Arise, cry in the night, pour out thy sins,
  Thy heart, like water, when the watch begins;
  Lift up thy hands to God, lest children die,
  Which, faint for hunger, in the streets do lie.
20.  Behold, O Lord, consider unto whom        165
  Thou hast done this; what, shall the women come
  To eat their children of a span? shall Thy
  Prophet and priest be slain in sanctuary?
21.  On ground in streets the young and old do lie;
  My virgins and young men by sword do die;        170
  Them in the day of Thy wrath Thou hast slain;
  Nothing did Thee from killing them contain.
22.  As to a solemn feast, all whom I fear’d
  Thou call’st about me; when Thy wrath appear’d,
  None did remain or scape, for those which I        175
  Brought up, did perish by mine enemy.
1.  I AM the man which have affliction seen,
  Under the rod of God’s wrath having been;
2.  He hath led me to darkness, not to light,
3.  And against me all day, His hand doth fight.        180
4.  He hath broke my bones, worn out my flesh and skin,
5.  Built up against me; and hath girt me in
  With hemlock, and with labour; 6. And set me
  In dark, as they who dead for ever be.
7.  He hath hedged me lest I ’scape, and added more        185
  To my steel fetters heavier than before.
8.  When I cry out He outshuts my prayer; 9. And hath
  Stopp’d with hewn stone my way, and turn’d my path.
10.  And like a lion hid in secrecy,
  Or bear which lies in wait, He was to me.        190
11.  He stops my way, tears me, made desolate;
12.  And He makes me the mark He shooteth at.
13.  He made the children of His quiver pass
  Into my reins. 14. I, with my people, was
  All the day long, a song and mockery.        195
15.  He hath fill’d me with bitterness, and He
  Hath made me drunk with wormwood. 16. He hath burst
  My teeth with stones, and cover’d me with dust.
17.  And thus my soul far off from peace was set,
  And my prosperity I did forget.        200
18.  My strength, my hope—unto myself I said—
  Which from the Lord should come, is perished;
19.  But when my mournings I do think upon,
  My wormwood, hemlock, and affliction,
20.  My soul is humbled in rememb’ring this;        205
21.  My heart considers, therefore, hope there is.
22.  ’Tis God’s great mercy we’re not utterly
  Consumed, for His compassions do not die;
23.  For every morning they renewed be,
  For great, O Lord, is Thy fidelity.        210
24.  The Lord is—saith my soul—my portion,
  And therefore in Him will I hope alone.
25.  The Lord is good to them, who on Him rely,
  And to the soul that seeks Him earnestly.
26.  It is both good to trust, and to attend        215
  The Lord’s salvation unto the end.
27.  ’Tis good for one His yoke in youth to bear.
28.  He sits alone, and doth all speech forbear,
  Because he hath borne it. 29. And his mouth he lays
  Deep in the dust, yet then in hope he stays.        220
30.  He gives his cheeks to whosoever will
  Strike him, and so he is reproached still.
31.  For not for ever doth the Lord forsake;
32.  But when He hath struck with sadness, He doth take
  Compassion, as His mercy ’s infinite;        225
33.  Nor is it with His heart, that He doth smite,
34.  That underfoot the prisoners stamped be,
35.  That a man’s right the judge himself doth see
  To be wrung from him; 36. That he subverted is
  In his just cause, the Lord allows not this.        230
37.  Who then will say, that aught doth come to pass,
  But that which by the Lord commanded was?
38.  Both good and evil from His mouth proceeds;
39.  Why then grieves any man for his misdeeds?
40.  Turn we to God, by trying out our ways;        235
41.  To Him in heav’n our hands with hearts upraise.
42.  We have rebell’d, and fallen away from Thee;
  Thou pardon’st not; 43. Usest no clemency;
  Pursuest us, kill’st us, cover’st us with wrath;
44.  Cover’st Thyself with clouds, that our prayer hath        240
  No power to pass. 45. And Thou hast made us fall
  As refuse, and off-scouring to them all.
46.  All our foes gape at us. 47. Fear and a snare
  With ruin, and with waste upon us are.
48.  With watery rivers doth mine eye o’erflow        245
  For ruin of my people’s daughters so;
49.  Mine eye doth drop down tears incessantly,
50.  Until the Lord look down from heav’n to see.
51.  And for my city daughters’ sake, mine eye
  Doth break mine heart. 52. Causeless mine enemy        250
  Like a bird chased me. 53. In a dungeon
  They’ve shut my life, and cast me on a stone.
54.  Waters flow’d o’er my head; then thought I, I am
  Destroy’d; 55. I called, Lord, upon Thy name
  Out of the pit; 56. And Thou my voice didst hear;        255
  O from my sigh 2 and cry, stop not Thine ear.
57.  Then when I call’d upon Thee, Thou drew’st near
  Unto me, and said’st unto me, “Do not fear.”
58.  Thou, Lord, my soul’s cause handled hast, and Thou
  Rescuest my life. 59. O Lord, do Thou judge now.        260
  Thou heardst my wrong, 60. Their vengeance, all they’ve wrought;
61.  How they reproach’d, Thou’st heard, and what they thought;
62.  What their lips utter’d, which against me rose,
  And what was ever whisper’d by my foes.
63.  I am their song, whether they rise or sit;        265
64.  Give them rewards, Lord, for their working fit,
65.  Sorrow of heart, Thy curse; 66. And with Thy might
  Follow, and from under heaven destroy them quite.
1.  HOW is the gold become so dim? How is
  Purest and finest gold thus changed to this?        270
  The stones which were stones of the sanctuary,
  Scatter’d in corners of each street do lie.
2.  The precious sons of Sion, which should be
  Valued at purest gold, 3 how do we see
  Low rated now, as earthen pitchers, stand,        275
  Which are the work of a poor potter’s hand?
3.  Even the sea-calfs draw their breasts, and give
  Suck to their young; my people’s daughters live,
  By reason of the foes’ great cruelness,
  As do the owls in the vast wilderness.        280
4.  And when the sucking child doth strive to draw,
  His tongue for thirst cleaves to his upper jaw;
  And when for bread the children cry,
  There is no man that doth them satisfy.
5.  They which before were delicately fed,        285
  Now in the streets forlorn have perished;
  And they which ever were in scarlet clothed,
  Sit and embrace the dunghills which they loathed.
6.  The daughters of my people have sinn’d more,
  Than did the town of Sodom sin before;        290
  Which being at once destroy’d, there did remain
  No hands amongst them to vex them again.
7.  But heretofore, purer her Nazarite
  Was than the snow, and milk was not so white;
  As carbuncles did their pure bodies shine,        295
  And all their polish’dness was sapphirine.
8.  They’re darker now than blackness; none can know
  Them by the face, as through the street they go;
  For now their skin doth cleave unto their bone,
  And withered, is like to dry wood grown.        300
9.  Better by sword than famine ’tis to die;
  And better through-pierced, than through penury.
10.  Women, by nature pitiful, have eat
  Their children—dress’d with their own hand—for meat.
11.  Jehovah here fully accomplish’d hath        305
  His indignation, and pour’d forth His wrath;
  Kindled a fire in Sion, which hath power
  To eat, and her foundations to devour.
12.  Nor would the kings of th’ earth, nor all which live
  In the inhabitable world believe,        310
  That any adversary, any foe,
  Into Jerusalem should enter so.
13.  For the priests’ sins, and prophets’, which have shed
  Blood in the streets and the just murdered;
14.  Which, when those men whom they made blind did stray        315
  Thorough the streets, defilèd by the way
  With blood, the which impossible it was
  Their garment should ’scape touching, as they pass,
15.  Would cry aloud, “Depart, defilèd men,
  Depart, depart, and touch not us!” and then        320
  They fled, and stray’d, and with the Gentiles were;
  Yet told their friends, they should not long dwell there.
16.  For this they’re scatter’d by Jehovah’s face,
  Who never will regard them more; no grace
  Unto their old men shall the foe afford;        325
  Nor, that they’re priests, redeem them from the sword.
17.  And we as yet, for all these miseries
  Desiring our vain help, consume our eyes.
  And such a nation as cannot save,
  We in desire and speculation have;        330
18.  They hunt our steps, that in the streets we fear
  To go; our end is now approached near.
  Our days accomplish’d are; this the last day;
  Eagles of heav’n are not so swift as they
19.  Which follow us; o’er mountain tops they fly        335
  At us, and for us in the desert lie.
20.  Th’ Anointed Lord, breath of our nostrils, He
  Of whom we said, under His shadow we
  Shall with more ease under the heathen dwell,
  Into the pit which these men digged, fell.        340
21.  Rejoice, O Edom’s daughter, joyful be
  Thou that inhabit’st Uz, for unto thee
  This cup shall pass, and thou with drunkenness
  Shalt fill thyself, and show thy nakedness.
22.  Then thy sins, O Sion, shall be spent,        345
  The Lord will not leave thee in banishment.
  Thy sins, O Edom’s daughter, He will see,
  And for them, pay thee with captivity.
1.  REMEMBER, O Lord, what is fall’n on us;
  See, and mark how we are reproached thus;        350
2.  For unto strangers our possession
  Is turn’d, our houses unto aliens gone.
3.  Our mothers are become as widows; we
  As orphans all, and without fathers be;
4.  Waters which are our own, we drink and pay;        355
  And upon our own wood a price they lay.
5.  Our persecutors on our necks do sit;
  They make us travail, and not intermit;
6.  We stretch our hands unto th’ Egyptians
  To get us bread; and to th’ Assyrians.        360
7.  Our fathers did these sins, and are no more;
  But we do bear the sins they did before.
8.  They are but servants, which do rule us thus,
  Yet from their hands none would deliver us.
9.  With danger of our life our bread we gat;        365
  For in the wilderness the sword did wait.
10.  The tempests of this famine we lived in,
  Black as an oven colour’d had our skin.
11.  In Judah’s cities they the maids abused
  By force, and so women in Sion used.        370
12.  The princes with their hands they hung; no grace
  Nor honour gave they to the elder’s face.
13.  Unto the mill our young men carried are,
  And children fell under the wood they bare.
14.  Elders the gates, youth did their songs forbear;        375
  Gone was our joy; our dancings, mournings were.
15.  Now is the crown fall’n from our head; and woe
  Be unto us, because we’ve sinnèd so.
16.  For this our hearts do languish, and for this
  Over our eyes a cloudy dimness is.        380
17.  Because Mount Sion desolate doth lie,
  And foxes there do go at liberty;
18.  But Thou, O Lord, art ever, and Thy throne
  From generation to generation.
19.  Why shouldst Thou forget us eternally?        385
  Or leave us thus long in this misery?
20.  Restore us, Lord, to Thee, that so we may
  Return, and as of old, renew our day.
21.  For oughtest Thou, O Lord, despise us thus,
  And to be utterly enraged at us?        390
Note 1. l. 121. 1635, The [back]
Note 2. l. 256. 1630, my sight [back]
Note 3. l. 274. 1650, as purest gold [back]

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