POETRY: Along The Banks by Joel Barlow

Along The Banks by Joel Barlow

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.  We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.  For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.  How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?  If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.  Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.  O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.  Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. (Psalm 137: 1-9)

Along the banks where Babel’s current flows,
Our captive bands in deep despondence strayed,
While Zion’s fall in sad remembrance rose,
Her friends, her children, mingled with the dead.

The tuneless harp that once with joy we strung,
When praise employed and mirth inspired the lay,
In mournful silence on the willows hung,
And growing grief prolonged the tedious day.

The barbarous tyrants, to increase the woe,
With taunting smiles a song of Zion claim;
Bid sacred praise in strains melodious flow,
While they blaspheme the great Jehovah’s name.

But how, in heathen chains and lands unknown,
Shall Israel’s sons, a song of Zion raise?
O hapless Salem, God’s terrestrial throne,
Thou land of glory, sacred mount of praise.

If e’er my memory lose thy lovely name,
If my cold heart neglect my kindred race,
Let dire destructions seize this guilty frame;
My hand shall perish and my voice shall cease.

Yet shall the Lord, who hears when Zion calls,
O’ertake her foes, with terror and dismay,
His arm avenge her desolated walls,
And raise her children to eternal day.

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