Well-head were this head of mine, eyes of a fountain these eyes, day nor night should serve me to weep enough for my country’s dead.
Oh that some lodging-place in the wilderness for me were dwelling-place, far from the haunts of my own people, that are faithless lovers, rebel subjects all!
Deceitful tongues, treacherous as the hidden archer’s bow, hearts that lord it over their fellow-countrymen, wrong leading to wrong, and my claims forgotten! the Lord says.
Neighbour of neighbour beware, kinsman let kinsman never trust; none goes about to overthrow thee more craftily than brother of thine or friend.
None but will overreach his fellow with lies; all their schooling is in falsehood, all their striving for ill-gotten gain.
In what a nest of treason thou dwellest! And such treason, the Lord says, as will acknowledge no claim of mine.
This warning, then, he utters, the Lord of hosts: The fire for them! They must be tried in the crucible; what other choice has my faithless people left me?
Tongues that wound like an arrow, with deceit for poison, ever the smooth word of friend laying snare for friend;
what, shall I let all this pass me by, the Lord says; shall I not take my fill of vengeance against such a nation as this?
Sad dirge be made for the hills, lament for all the wide pasture-lands, that are scorched bare, and left untravelled; silent the herdsman’s call; birds that nested there, cattle that grazed there, fled and gone.
I mean to turn Jerusalem into a heap of dust, the lair of serpents; the cities of Juda shall stand desolate, with none to inhabit them.
Come now, who is wise enough to read the riddle, to what spokesman shall the Lord’s proclamation be entrusted, when he tells us why the land lies ruined, burnt up like the wilderness, and never a passer-by?
It is because they forsook the commandment I gave them, the Lord says, would not heed my call or follow it;
because they had recourse to ill devices of their own, and to the gods of the country-side, whose worship their fathers taught them.
This doom, then, the Lord of hosts pronounces, the God of Israel: On wormwood I will feed this people of mine, gall shall be the drink I give them;
far away I will scatter them, in countries never they, never their fathers knew; and the sword shall follow close behind, to exterminate them.
This too the Lord of hosts says, the God of Israel: Search all about, and find mourners, mistresses of their craft, and such as will answer your summons with all haste;
no time let them lose in making dole for us; weep every eye, be every eye-lid blubbered with tears.
Listen to Sion’s lament: Alas, what scathe, alas, what shame! Our land lies deserted, our homes in ruins!
To you, women, the Lord’s word comes; this is matter for your hearing. To daughters of yours, neighbours of yours, teach the sad melody of yonder lament;
here is death looking in at our windows, finding its way into our palaces, and soon there will be no children playing out of doors, nor grown men passing to and fro in the streets.
A message from the Lord: Like dung they shall lie on the ground, the corpses of the dead, like the sheaf left after reaping is done, that none is at pains to gather.
This, too, is the Lord’s message: Never boast, if thou art wise, of thy wisdom, if thou art strong, of thy strength, if thou art rich, of thy riches;
boast is none worth having, save that insight which gives knowledge of me; in all my dealings with mankind so merciful a Lord, the Lord says, so just, so faithful, and a lover of such dealings where they are found.
A time of reckoning there shall be, the Lord says, for all the nations that practice circumcision,
Egypt, Juda, Edom, Ammon, Moab; ay, and the desert folk that clip their foreheads bare. The whole world is uncircumcised; all have hearts uncircumcised, and Israel with the rest.