John Bunyan

(28 November 1628 – 31 August 1688 / Elstow, Bedfordshire, England.)

Of Hell And The Estate of Those Who Perish


hus, having show'd you what I see
Of heaven, I now will tell
You also, after search, what be
The damned wights of hell.

And O, that they who read my lines
Would ponder soberly,
And lay to heart such things betimes
As touch eternity.

The sleepy sinner little thinks
What sorrows will abound
Within him, when upon the brinks
Of Tophet he is found.

Hell is beyond all though a state
So doubtful[10] and forlorn,
So fearful, that none can relate
The pangs that there are born.

God will exclude them utterly
From his most blessed face,
And them involve in misery,
In shame, and in disgrace.

God is the fountain of all bliss,
Of life, of light, and peace;
They then must needs be comfortless
Who are depriv'd of these.

Instead of life, a living death
Will there in all be found.
Dyings will be in every breath,
Thus sorrow will abound.

No light, but darkness here doth dwell;
No peace, but horror strange:
The fearful damning wights[11] of hell
In all will make this change.

To many things the damned's woe
Is liked in the word,
And that because no one can show
The vengeance of the Lord.

Unto a dreadful burning lake,
All on a fiery flame,
Hell is compared, for to make
All understand the same.

A burning lake, a furnace hot,
A burning oven, too,
Must be the portion, share, and lot,
Of those which evil sow.

This plainly shows the burning heat
With which it will oppress
All hearts, and will like burnings eat
Their souls with sore distress.

This burning lake, it is God's wrath
Incensed by the sin
Of those who do reject his path,
And wicked ways walk in.

Which wrath will so perplex all parts
Of body and of soul,
As if up to the very hearts
In burnings they did roll.

Again, to show the stinking state
Of this so sad a case,
Like burning brimstone God doth make
The hidings of his face.

And truly as the steam, and smoke,
And flames of brimstone smell,
To blind the eyes, and stomach choke,
So are the pangs of hell.

To see a sea of brimstone burn,
Who would it not affright?
But they whom God to hell doth turn
Are in most woful plight.

This burning cannot quenched be,
No, not with tears of blood;
No mournful groans in misery
Will here do any good.

O damned men! this is your fate,
The day of grace is done,
Repentance now doth come too late,
Mercy is fled and gone.

Your groans and cries they sooner should
Have sounded in mine ears,
If grace you would have had, or would
Have me regard your tears.

Me you offended with your sin,
Instructions you did slight,
Your sins against my law hath been,
Justice shall have his right.

I gave my Son to do you good,
I gave you space and time
With him to close, which you withstood,
And did with hell combine.

Justice against you now is set,
Which you cannot appease;
Eternal justice doth you let
From either life or ease.

Thus he that to this place doth come
May groan, and sigh, and weep;
But sin hath made that place his home,
And there it will him keep.

Wherefore, hell in another place
Is call'd a prison too,
And all to show the evil case
Of all sin doth undo.

Which prison, with its locks and bars
Of God's lasting decree,
Will hold them fast; O how this mars
All thought of being free!

Out at these brazen bars they may
The saints in glory see;
But this will not their grief allay,
But to them torment be.

Thus they in this infernal cave
Will now be holden fast
From heavenly freedom, though they crave,
Of it they may not taste.

The chains that darkness on them hangs
Still ratt'ling in their ears,
Creates within them heavy pangs,
And still augments their fears.

Thus hopeless of all remedy,
They dyingly do sink
Into the jaws of misery,
And seas of sorrow drink.

For being cop'd[12] on every side
With helplessness and grief,
Headlong into despair they slide
Bereft of all relief.

Therefore this hell is called a pit,
Prepared for those that die
The second death, a term most fit
To show their misery.

A pit that's bottomless is this,
A gulf of grief and woe,
A dungeon which they cannot miss,
That will themselves undo.

Thus without stay they always sink,
Thus fainting still they fail,
Despair they up like water drink,
These prisoners have no bail.

Here meets them now that worm that gnaws,
And plucks their bowels out,
The pit, too, on them shuts her jaws;
This dreadful is, no doubt.

This ghastly worm is guilt for sin,
Which on the conscience feeds,
With vipers' teeth, both sharp and keen,
Whereat it sorely bleeds.

This worm is fed by memory,
Which strictly brings to mind,
All things done in prosperity,
As we in Scripture find.

No word, nor thought, nor act they did,
But now is set in sight,
Not one of them can now be hid,
Memory gives them light.

On which the understanding still
Will judge, and sentence pass,
This kills the mind, and wounds the will,
Alas, alas, alas!

O, conscience is the slaughter shop,
There hangs the axe and knife,
'Tis there the worm makes all things hot,
And wearies out the life.

Here, then, is execution done
On body and on soul;
For conscience will be brib'd of none,
But gives to all their dole.

This worm, 'tis said, shall never die,
But in the belly be
Of all that in the flames shall lie,
O dreadful sight to see!

This worm now needs must in them live,
For sin will still be there,
And guilt, for God will not forgive,
Nor Christ their burden bear.

But take from them all help and stay,
And leave them to despair,
Which feeds upon them night and day,
This is the damned's share.

Now will confusion so possess
These monuments of ire,
And so confound them with distress,
And trouble their desire.

That what to think, or what to do,
Or where to lay their head,
They know not; 'tis the damned's woe
To live, and yet be dead.

These cast-aways would fain have life,
But know, they never shall,
They would forget their dreadful plight,
But that sticks fast'st of all.

God, Christ, and heaven, they know are best,
Yet dare not on them think,
The saints they know in joys do rest,
While they their tears do drink.

They cry alas, but all in vain,
They stick fast in the mire,
They would be rid of present pain,
Yet set themselves on fire.

Darkness is their perplexity,
Yet do they hate the light,
They always see their misery,
Yet are themselves all night.

They are all dead, yet live they do,
Yet neither live nor die.
They die to weal, and live to woe,
This is their misery.

Amidst all this so great a scare
That here I do relate,
Another falleth to their share
In this their sad estate.

The legions of infernal fiends
Then with them needs must be,
A just reward for all their pains,
This they shall feel and see.

With yellings, howlings, shrieks, and cries,
And other doleful noise,
With trembling hearts and failing eyes,
These are their hellish joys.

These angels black they would obey,
And serve with greedy mind,
And take delight to go astray,
That pleasure they might find.

Which pleasure now like poison turns
Their joy to heaviness;
Yea, like the gall of asps it burns,
And doth them sore oppress

Now is the joy they lived in
All turned to brinish tears,
And resolute attempts to sin
Turn'd into hellish fears.

The floods run trickling down their face,
Their hearts do prick and ache,
While they lament their woful case,
Their loins totter and shake.

O wetted cheeks, with bleared eyes,
How fully do you show
The pangs that in their bosom lies,
And grief they undergo!

Their dolour in their bitterness
So greatly they bemoan,
That hell itself this to express
Doth echo with their groan.

Thus broiling on the burning grates,
They now to wailing go,
And say of those unhappy fates
That did them thus undo.

Alas, my grief! hard hap had I
Those dolours here to find,
A living death, in hell I lie,
Involv'd with grief of mind.

I once was fair for light and grace,
My days were long and good;
I lived in a blessed place
Where was most heav'nly food.

But wretch I am, I slighted life,
I chose in death to live;
O, for these days now, if I might,
Ten thousand worlds would give.

What time had I to pray and read,
What time to hear the word!
What means to help me at my need,
Did God to me afford!

Examples, too, of piety
I every day did see,
But they abuse and slight did I,
O, woe be unto me.

I now remember how my friend
Reproved me of vice,
And bid me mind my latter end,
Both once, and twice, and thrice.

But O, deluded man, I did
My back upon him turn;
Eternal life I did not heed,
For which I now do mourn.

Ah, golden time, I did thee spend
In sin and idleness,
Ah, health and wealth, I did you lend
To bring me to distress.

My feet to evil I let run,
And tongue of folly talk;
My eyes to vanity hath gone,
Thus did I vainly walk.

I did as greatly toil and strain
Myself with sin to please,
As if that everlasting grain
Could have been found in these.

But nothing, nothing have I found
But weeping, and alas,
And sorrow, which doth now surround
Me, and augment my cross.

Ah, bleeding conscience, how did I
Thee check when thou didst tell
Me of my faults, for which I lie
Dead while I live in hell.

I took thee for some peevish foe,
When thou didst me accuse,
Therefore I did thee buffet so,
And counsel did refuse.

Thou often didst me tidings bring,
How God did me dislike,
Because I took delight in sin,
But I thy news did slight.

Ah, Mind, why didst thou do those things
That now do work my woe?
Ah, Will, why was thou thus inclin'd
Me ever to undo?

My senses, how were you beguil'd
When you said sin was good?
It hath in all parts me defil'd,
And drown'd me like a flood.

Ah, that I now a being have,
In sorrow and in pain;
Mother, would you had been my grave,
But this I wish in vain.

Had I been made a cockatrice,
A toad, or such-like thing;[13]
Yea, had I been made snow or ice,
Then had I had no sin;

A block, a stock, a stone, or clot,
Is happier than I;
For they know neither cold nor hot,
To live nor yet to die.

I envy now the happiness
Of those that are in light,
I hate the very name of bliss,
'Cause I have there no right.

I grieve to see that others are
In glory, life, and well,
Without all fear, or dread, or care,
While I am racked in hell.

Thus will these souls with watery eyes,
And hacking of their teeth,
With wringing hands, and fearful cries,
Expostulate their grief.

O set their teeth they will, and gnash,
And gnaw for very pain,
While as with scorpions God doth lash
Them for their life so vain.

Again, still as they in this muse,
Are feeding on the fire,
To mind there comes yet other news,
To screw their torments higher.

Which is the length of this estate,
Where they at present lie;
Which in a word I thus relate,
'Tis to eternity.

This thought now is so firmly fix'd
In all that comes to mind,
And also is so strongly mix'd
With wrath of every kind.

So that whatever they do know,
Or see, or think, or feel,
For ever still doth strike them through
As with a bar of steel.

For EVER shineth in the fire,
EVER is on the chains;
'Tis also in the pit of ire,
And tastes in all their pains.

For ever separate from God,
From peace, and life, and rest;
For ever underneath the rod
That vengeance liketh best.

O ever, ever, this will drown'd
Them quite and make them cry,
We never shall get o'er thy bound,
O, great eternity!

They sooner now the stars may count
Than lose these dismal bands;
Or see to what the motes[14] among
Or number up the sands.

Then see an end of this their woe,
Which now for sin they have;
O wantons, take heed what you do,
Sin will you never save.

They sooner may drink up the sea,
Than shake off these their fears;
Or make another in one day
As big with brinish tears;

Than put an end to misery,
In which they now do roar,
Or help themselves; no, they must cry,
Alas, for evermore.

When years by thousands on a heap
Are passed o'er their head;
Yet still the fruits of sin they reap
Among the ghostly dead.

Yea, when they have time out of mind
Be in this case so ill,
For EVER, EVER is behind[15]
Yet for them to fulfill.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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