Rivers of Babylon: A Contemporary Paraphrase (Psalm 137)

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O Babylonian rivers, that flow amid our tears

How bitter run the brooks of memory, of Zion’s maimed posterity,

If poplar trees are blooming, yet droop our harps in sorrow

The heathen hordes demand of us our sacred airs

They lust to mock we dejected ones, we cannot bear 

As aliens and vagabonds, like Cain

To sing the Most High’s praises, as though the dim refrain

Of captivity’s sorrow could be tribute e'er

To the holy tabernacle we, for our sins, abandoned there

Renounc’d was neighbour’s care, and the hallowed rites…

O city once so fair!

If I should e’er forget thee, O Jerusalem so dear, 

Withered be my right hand, a rejected bundle, cut off from the land!

If forgetful be my heart, my greatest art be not thy praise to sing,

May mine accursed tongue, dead, moribund as dung,

Lie silent as the grave, bound to the throat the Most High Gave

To honor thee. 

And as for they whose sires were birthed unnaturally, 

Through deception of their kin, 

Remember Lord the Edomites, and not our sin

Alone, for when we received the righteous penalty that was meet

The sons of Esau reveled in our defeat

And in the blot upon the pages of thy book

Which in their heedless infamy they mistook

For humiliation and abasement of our God

And not the righteous retribution upon us all

They roared to “Tear it down!” 

To “Tear it down!” to the nethermost cornerstone

And yet still we hold our faith that thou alone, 

O Lord, O thou alone, art Master of thy House 

And of those who dwell with thee.

Then Woe, O Babylon! Damned harlot, all-accursed

Before thou mockest, have a care to meditate

The one who pursueth justice, near or late, 

Against Nebuchadnezzar, O wicked ox ingrate, 

And smites the feet of clay, 

Hurls wicked deeds infantile, to their predestinate demise

Shall be on this account beloved of God,

Then let thy dread abasement serve as testament to all!

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