In Time of War – St. Ephrem the Syrian

 

 

0609SEphrem[1]

 

1. My children have been slain; and my daughters that are without me—their walls are overthrown, their children scattered—and their holy places trodden down. R., Blessed is Your chastisement!

 

2. The fowlers have taken, my doves out of my strongholds—which quitted their nests, and fled to the caves—in the net have they taken them.

 

3. After the manner of wax, that melts before the fire—thus melted and dissolved, the bodies, of my sons before the heat— and the drought of my strongholds.

 

4. And instead of streams, of milk that used to flow—for my sons and my little ones, milk fails the sucklings, and water the weaned children.

 

5. The suckling falls, from its mother and gasps,— because it cannot suck, nor can she give suck:— they breathe out their spirit and die.

 

6. How is it possible, that Your grace can refrain— the welling of its stream, when it is not possible to restrain— the abundance of its flow?

 

7. And why has Your grace, shut up its mercies—and withheld its streams, from the people that cry—for one to moisten their tongue?

 

8. And there was a pit, between them and their brethren;— like the rich man who cried, and there was none to answer—to moisten his tongue.

 

9. And as into the midst of fire, the wretched ones were cast—and heat in the midst of thirst, the fire wasblowing,— and kindling upon them.

 

10. Their carcasses were melted, and dissolved by the heat—they that had thirsted gave in turn the earth to drink—of the reek of their bodies.

 

11. And the fort that with thirst, had killed, its dwellers,— it drank in its turn of the flux from the corpses—that were melted by thirst.

 

12. Who has seen a people— that were burning with thirst—while there surrounded them a wall of water and they could not— moisten their tongue!

 

13. Surely with the judgment of Sodom, were my beloved judged,— and my children smitten, with the torment of Sodom—though that was but for one day.

 

14. The torment of fire, though it be for one hour, O my Lord,— in lingering thirst, is a lingering death, and a subtle punishment.

 

15. After my sorrows, O my Lord, and my bitter sufferings—this is the best comfort, wherewith You have comforted me—that You have multiplied my afflictions.

 

16. The medicine that I hoped, it is sorrow decreed;— the binding up that I looked for, it is bitter calamity—that it seeks to work for me.

 

17. And whereas I hoped to escape, from the midst of the storm—worse for me is the storm in it, even in the harbour,— than that in the sea.

 

18. Whereas I thought in my folly, that I should anchor and escape— from the midst of the Gulf; my sins have cast me back— again into the midst of it.

 

19. Look, O my Lord, on my limbs, how the swords are thick in me—and have left their mark on my arms; and the scars of the spears—are planted in my sides!

 

20. Tears in my eyes, and in my ears ill rumours—wailing in my mouth, and mourning in my heart!— Add no more, O my Lord, to me!

Nisibine Hymns  by St. Ephrem the Syrian

 

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