What is the meaning of Hilaire Belloc's poem "The Prophet Lost in the Hills at Evening"?

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andrewhays0287 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In “The Prophet Lost in the Hills at Evening” by Hilaire Belloc, the reader is given the chance to look inside the mind of someone struggling with connection to God through the imagery of an individual who is lost and afraid in a strange and hellish place. Throughout, Belloc is appealing to God as a protector, proclaiming that God alone can save him while twice repeating the phrase “remember me.” Each time, the poet is asking to be remembered by God while surrounded by imagery of dread, isolation, and the “Voids of Hell.”

Belloc himself, an ardent apologist for Catholicism, actually lost his own faith at one point in his early life, though he did return to it. His biographer suggested that Belloc never actually lost his faith completely, and in this poem we may see some of that experience’s influence. The poet never doubts in the poem that God is a real presence that alone can save him; he only writes of the experience of not feeling the presence of God.

The poem also bears a thematic resemblance to Psalm 23. Both declare the comforting strength of God in difficult situations, albeit in different ways. While the language of Psalm 23 is certain and assured, Belloc’s poem is more desperate and, as the title states, lost. While the psalmist never fears that God is with him while in the valley of the shadow of death, Belloc outright admits that he is "awfully afraid." In the end, he does not seem to find the triumphant rescue that he is asking for. Belloc simply states that he has remained faithful, and asks that God surround him on his darkening path. 

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