Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk, they drew near to a very miry swamp, which was in the midst of the plain; and they, not paying attention, fell suddenly into the bog. The name of the swamp was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being greatly smeared with filth. Christian, because of the burden which was on his back — began to sink in the mire.
Then Pliable cried out, “Ah! Christian, where are we now?”
“Truly,” said Christian, “I do not know!”
Being offended, Pliable angrily said to his companion, “Is this the happiness you have told me of? If we have such trouble at our first setting out — what may we expect before our journey’s end? If I can get out of here with my life — you can have your noble country without me!”
And with that, Pliable, after a desperate struggle — got out of the mire on that side of the swamp which was nearest to his own house. So away he went — and Christian saw him no more.
So Christian was left in the Swamp of Despond alone; but he still struggled toward that side of the swamp which was furthest from his own house, and closest to the narrow-gate. But he could not get out, because of the heavy burden which was upon his back.
I then beheld in my dream, that a man came to him, whose name was Help, and asked him what he was doing there.
“Sir,” Christian said, “I was told to go this way by a man called Evangelist, who directed me to yonder narrow-gate, that I might escape the wrath to come. And as I was going — I fell into this swamp!”
“But why did you not look for the steps?” asked Help.
“As I was hurrying along — I fell in!” replied Christian.
“Then,” said Help, “give me your hand!”
So Christian reached out his hand, and Help drew him out of the mire, set him upon solid ground, and bid him to continue on his way.
Then Christian turned to Help and said, “Sir, why is it — since the way from the City of Destruction, to yonder narrow-gate is over this swamp — that this bog is not mended, so that poor Pilgrims might travel there more safely?”
Help then explained to Christian, “This miry swamp is a place which cannot be mended. It is the pit where the scum and filth which attend conviction for sin, continually runs — and therefore it is called the Swamp of Despond. For as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there arises in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouragements — which all settle in this place. This is the reason why the swamp remains so foul.
“It is not the pleasure of the King, that this place should remain so bad. His laborers have long been, by the directions of His Majesty, employed to mend this patch of ground. Yes, and to my knowledge, millions of wholesome instructions have, at all seasons, been brought from everywhere in the King’s dominions, to help mend it. These are the best materials to make this place into solid ground — if it could have been mended. But it remains the Swamp of Despond still — and so will it ever remain — even when they have done all that can be done.
“True, there are, by the direction of the Law-giver, certain good and sturdy steps, placed through the very midst of this swamp. But at such times, this place spews out so much of its filth — that these steps are hardly seen. Or if they are seen, men may become dizzy, miss the steps — and fall into the mire!”
Now I saw in my dream, that, by this time, Pliable had reached home, and his neighbors came to visit him. Some of them called him a wise man for coming back; and some called him a fool for attempting such a hazardous journey. Others mocked him for his cowardliness, saying, “Surely, since you began the venture — you should not have been so weak as to have given up because of a few difficulties.”
So Pliable was ashamed, and began to sneak around among them. But eventually he gained more courage — and his neighbors then began to ridicule him behind his back.