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The Pilgrim's Progress in Words of One Syllable
Lucy Aikin and John Bunyan
As I went through the wild waste of this world, I came to a place where there was a den, and I lay down in it to sleep. While I slept I had a dream, and lo! I saw a man whose clothes were in rags and he stood with his face from his own house, with a book in his hand, and a great load on his back. I saw him read from the leaves of a book, and as he read, he wept and shook with fear; and at length he broke out with a loud cry, and said, What shall I do to save my soul?
So in this plight he went home, and as long as he could he held his peace, that his wife and babes should not see his grief. But at length he told them his mind, and thus he spoke, O my dear wife, and you my babes, I, your dear friend, am full of woe, for a load lies hard on me; and more than this, I have been told that our town will be burnt with fire, in which I, you my wife, and you my sweet babes, shall be lost, if means be not found to save us.
This sad tale struck all who heard him with awe, not that they thought what he said to them was true, but that they had fears that some weight must be on his mind; so, as night now drew near, they were in hopes that sleep might soothe his brain, and with all haste they got him to bed.
When the morn broke, they sought to know how he did? He told them, Worse and worse; and he set to talk once more in the same strain as he had done; but they took no heed of it. By and by, to drive off his fit, they spoke harsh words to him; at times they would laugh, at times they would chide, and then set him at nought. So he went to his room to pray for them, as well as to nurse his own grief. He would go, too, into the woods to read and muse, and thus for some weeks he spent his time.
Now I saw, in my dream, that one day as he took his walk in the fields with his book in his hand, he gave a groan,—for he felt as if a cloud were on his soul,—and he burst out as he was wont to do, and said, Who will save me? I saw, too, that he gave wild looks this way and that, as if he would rush off; yet he stood still, for he could not tell which way to go. At last, a man, whose name was Evangelist, came up to him and said, Why dost thou weep?
He said, Sir, I see by this book in my hand that I am to die, and that then God will judge me. Now I dread to die.
Evangelist.—Why do you fear to die, since this life is fraught with woe?
The man said, I fear lest a hard doom should wait me, and that this load on my back will make me sink down, till at last, I shall find I am in Tophet.
If this be your case, said Evangelist, why do you stand still?
But the man said, I know not where to go.
Then he gave him a scroll with these words on it, Fly from the wrath to come.
When the man read it he said, Which way must I fly?
Evangelist held out his hand to point to a gate in the wide field, and said, Do you see the Wicket Gate?
The man said, No.
Do you see that light?
He then said, I think I do.
Keep that light in your eye, quoth Evangelist, and go straight up to it; so shall you see the gate, at which, when you knock, it shall be told you what you are to do.
Then I saw in my dream that Christian—for that was his name—set off to run.
Now he had not gone far from his own door, when his wife and young ones, who saw him, gave a loud wail to beg of him to come back; but the man put his hands to his ears, and ran on with a cry of Life! Life! The friends of his wife, too, came out to see him run, and as he went, some were heard to mock him, some to use threats, and there were two who set off to fetch him back by force, the names of whom were Obstinate and Pliable. Now, by this time, the man had gone a good way off, but at last they came up to him.
Then said Christian, Friends, why are you come?
To bid you go back with us, said they.
But, quoth he, that can by no means be; you dwell in the City of Destruction, the place where I, too, was born. I know it to be so, and there you will die and sink down to a place which burns with fire; be wise, good friends, and come with me.
What! and leave our good, and all out kith and kin?
Yes, said Christian, for that all which you might leave is but a grain to that which I seek, and if you will go with me and hold it firm, you shall fare as well as I; for there, where I go, you will find all you want and to spare. Come with me, and prove my words.
Obstinate.—What are the things you seek, since you leave all the world to find them?
Christian.—I seek those joys that fade not, which are laid up in a place of bliss—safe there for those who go in search of them. Read it so, if you will, in my book.
Obstinate.—Tush! Off with your book. Will you go back with us or no?
Christian.—No, not I, for I have laid my hand to the plough.
Obstinate.—Come, friend Pliable, let us turn back and leave him; there is a troop of such fools who, when they take up with a whim by the end, are more wise in their own eyes than ten men who know how to think.
Pliable.—Nay, do not scorn him; if what the good Christian says is true, the things he looks to are of more worth than ours: my heart leans to what he says.
Obstinate.—What! more fools still! Go back, go back, and be wise.
Christian.—Nay, but do you come with your friend Pliable; there are such things to be had as those I just spoke of, and more too. If you give no heed to me, read here in this book which comes to us from God, who could not lie.
Pliable.—Well, friend Obstinate, I think now I have come to a point; and I mean to go with this good man, and to cast my lot in with his. Then said he to Christian, Do you know the way to the place you speak of?
Christian.—I am told by a man whose name is Evangelist, to do my best to reach a gate that is in front of us, where I shall be told how to find the way.
So they went on side by side.
Obstinate.—And I will go back to my place; I will not be one of such vain folk.
Now I saw in my dream, that when Obstinate was gone back, Christian and Pliable set off to cross the plain, and they spoke thus as they went:—
Christian.—Well, Pliable, how do you do now? I am glad you have a mind to go with me.
Pliable.—Come, friend Christian, since there are none but we two here, tell me more of the things of which we go in search.
Christian.—I can find them in my heart, though I know not how to speak of them with my tongue; but yet, since you wish to know, this book tells us of a world that hast no bounds, and a life that has no end.
Pliable.—Well said, and what else?
Christian.—That there are crowns of light in store for us, and robes that will make us shine like the sun.
Pliable.—This, too, is good; and what else?
Christian.—That there shall be no more care nor grief for he that owns the place will wipe all tears from our eyes.
Pliable.—And what friends shall we find there?
Christian.—There we shall be with all the saints, in robes so bright that our eyes will grow dim to look on them. There shall we meet those who in this world have stood out for the faith, and have been burnt on the stake, and thrown to wild beasts, for the love they bore to the Lord. They will not harm us, but will greet us with love, for they all walk in the sight of God.
Pliable.—But how shall we get to share all this?
Christian.—The Lord of that land saith, if we wish to gain that world we shall be free to have it.
Pliable.—Well, my good friend, glad am I to hear of these thing: come on, let us mend our pace.
Christian.—I can not go so fast as I would, for this load on my back.
Then I saw in my dream that just as they had come to an end of this talk, they drew near to a slough that was in the midst of the plain, and as they took no heed, they both fell in. The name of the slough was Despond. Here they lay for a time in the mud; and the load that Christian had on his back made him sink all the more in the mire.
Pliable.—Ah! friend Christian, where are you now?
Christian.—In truth, I do no know.
Then Pliable said to his friend, Is this the bliss of which you have told me all this while? If we have such ill speed when we first set out, what may we look for twixt this and the end of our way? And with that he got out of the mire on that side of the slough which was next to his own house; then off he went, and Christian saw him no more.
So Christian was left to strive in the Slough of Despond as well as he could; yet his aim was to reach that side of the slough that was next The Wicket Gate, which at last he did, but he could not get out for the load that was on his back; till I saw in my dream that a man came to him whose name was Help.
What do you do here? said Help.
Christian.—I was bid to go this way by Evangelist, who told me to pass up to yon gate, that I might flee from the wrath to come, and on my way to it I fell in here.
Help.—But why did you not look for the steps?
Christian.—Fear came so hard on me that I fled the next way and fell in.
Help.—Give me your hand.
So he gave him his hand, and he drew him out, and set him on firm ground, and bade him go on his way.
Then in my dream I went up to Help and said to him, Sir, since this place is on the way from The City of Destruction to The Wicket Gate, how is it that no one mends this patch of ground, so that those who come by may not fall in the slough?
Help.—This slough is such a place as no one can mend. It is the spot to which doth run the scum and filth that wait on sin, and that is why men call it the Slough of Despond. When the man of sin wakes up to a sense of his own lost state, doubts and fears rise up in his soul, and all of them drain down and sink in this place: and it is this that makes the ground so bad. True there are good and sound steps in the midst of the slough, but at times it is hard to see them; or if they be seen, men's heads are so dull that they step on one side, and fall in the mire. But the ground is good when they have once got in at the gate.
Now I saw in my dream that by this time Pliable had gone back to his house once more, and that his friends came to see him: some said how wise it was to come home, and some that he was a fool to have gone. Some, too, were found to mock him, who said—Well, had I set out, I would not have been so base as to come back for a slough in the road. So Pliable was left to sneak off; but at last he got more heart, and then all were heard to turn their taunts, and laugh at poor Christian. Thus much for Pliable.
Now as Christian went on his way he saw a man come through the field to meet him, whose name was Mr. Worldly Wiseman, and he dwelt in the town of Carnal Policy, which was near that whence Christian came. He had heard some news of Christian; for his flight from The City of Destruction had made much noise, and was now the talk far and near. So he said, How now, good Sir, where do you go with such a load on your back?
Christian.—In truth, it is a load; and if you ask me where I go, I must tell you, Sir, I must go the The Wicket Gate in front of me, for there I shall be put in a way to get quit of my load.
Worldly Wiseman.—Have you not a wife and babes?
Christian.—Yes, but with this load I do not seem to care for them as I did; and, in truth, I feel as if I had none.
Worldly Wiseman.—Will you hear me if I speak my mind to you?
Christian.—If what you say be good, I will, for I stand much in need of help.
Worldly Wiseman.—I would urge you then, with all speed, to get rid of your load; for you will not be at rest till then.
Christian.—That is just what I seek to do. But there is no man in our land who can take if off me.
Worldly Wiseman.—Who bade you go this way to be rid of it?
Christian.—One that I took to be a great and true man; his name is Evangelist.
Worldly Wiseman.—Hark at what I say: there is no worse way in the world than that which he has sent you, and that you will find if you take him for your guide. In this short time you have met with bad luck, for I see the mud of the Slough of Despond is on your coat. Hear me, for I have seen more of the world than you; in the way you go, you will meet with pain, woe, thirst, the sword too,—in a word, death! Take no heed of what Evangelist tells you.
Christian.—Why, Sir, this load on my back is worse to me than all those things which you speak of; nay, I care not what I meet with in the way, if I can but get rid of my load.
Worldly Wiseman.—How did you come by it at first?
Christian.—Why, I read this book.
Worldly Wiseman.—Like more weak men I know, who aim at things too high for them you have lost heart, and run in the dark at great risk, to gain you know not what.
Christian.—I know what I would gain, it is ease for my load.
Worldly Wiseman.—But why will you seek for ease thus, when I could put you in the way to aid it where there would be no risk; and the cure is at hand.
Christian.—Pray, Sir, tell me what that way is.