The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremias
Alas, what mantle of cloud is this, the divine anger has thrown over unhappy Sion? The pride of Israel cast down from heaven to earth; the ground where the Lord’s feet once rested, now, in his anger, forgotten?
Blessed abodes of Jacob, by the Lord’s unsparing vengeance engulfed; towers that kept Juda inviolable hurled to the ground in ruin; kingdom and throne dragged in the dust!
Crushed lay all the defences of Israel, under his displeasure; failed us, at the enemy’s onset, the protection of his right hand; Jacob must be hedged about, as by flames of a consuming fire.
Deadly his bent bow, steady the play of his right hand assailing us; all that was fairest in poor Sion’s dwelling-place needs must perish, under the fiery rain of his vengeance.
Enemies he counts us, and has engulfed the whole of Israel in ruin; gone the palaces, gone the strongholds; Alas, poor Sion! weeps man, weeps maid, with cowed spirits.✻
Fallen, as it had been some garden shed, his own tabernacle; his own trysting-place with men he would pull down! Feast-day and sabbath should be forgotten in Sion; for king and priest, only anger and scorn.
Grown weary of his altar, from his own sanctuary turning away in abhorrence, the Lord has given up yonder embattled towers to the enemy; their cries ring through the temple like shout of holiday.
Heedfully the Lord went about his work, to strip the inviolable city of her walls; exact his measuring-line, busy his hand with the task of overthrow, till wall and rampart should lament their common ruin.
Idly the gates of her sag towards earth, bars riven and rent; king and chieftain are far away, exiled among the heathen; tradition is dead, nor any prophet learns, in vision, the Lord’s will.
Jerusalem’s aged folk sit there in the dust, dumb with sorrow; dust scattered over their heads, and sackcloth their garb; never a maid shall you see but has her head bowed down to earth.
Keen anguish for the overthrow of an unhappy race, that dims eye with tears, that stirs my being to its depths, as my heart goes out in boundless compassion!✻ Child and babe lie fainting in the streets.
Listen, how they ask where all the bread and wine is gone to! Wound they have none, yet there in the open streets you shall see them faint away, sighing out their lives on their mothers’ bosoms.
Might I but confront thee with such another as thyself! What queen so unhappy as Jerusalem, what maid as Sion desolate? How shall I comfort thee? Sea-deep is thy ruin, and past all cure.
Never a true vision or a wise thy prophets have for thee, never shew thee where thy guilt rests, and urge thee to repentance; lies and lures are all the burden of their revealing.
Openly the passers-by deride thee, poor maid; clap hands, and hiss, and wag their heads at thee; So much, they cry, for the city that was once the nonpareil of beauty, pride of the whole earth!
Pale✻ envy mops and mows at thee; how they hiss and gnash their teeth! Now to prey on her carrion! What fortune, that we should have lived to see this day, so long looked for in vain!
Quit is the Lord of his oath taken in times past; all his purpose is fulfilled; for thee, ruin relentless, for thy bitter enemy, triumph and high achievement.
Round those inviolable defences, cry they upon the Lord in good earnest. Day and night, Sion, let thy tears stream down; never rest thou, never let that eye weary of its task.✻
Sleepless in the night-watches raise thy song; flow thy heart’s prayer unceasingly; lift ever thy hands in supplication for infant lives; yonder, at the street corner, they are dying of famine.
Think well, Lord, is there any other people of whom thou hast taken such toll? Shall woman eat her own child, so tiny, hands can still clasp it? In the Lord’s sanctuary, priest and prophet be slain?
Untended they lie on the bare earth, the young and the aged; maid and warrior slain by the sword! This day of thy vengeance was to be all massacre, thou wouldst kill unsparingly.
Vengeance this day all around me; what mustering of thy terrors,✻ as for a solemn assembly! Escape is none, nor any remnant left; of all I fondled and fostered, the enemy has taken full toll.
The Holy Bible