1 When we did sit in Babylon
The rivers round about,
Then in remembrance of Zion
The tears for grief burst out.
2 We hanged our harps and instruments
The willow trees upon:
For in that place men for their use
Had planted many one.
3 Then they to whom we pris'ners were
Said to us tauntingly,
Now let us hear your Hebrew songs
And pleasant melody.
4 Alas! said we, who can once frame
His heavy heart to sing
The praises of our living God,
Thus under a strange king?
5 But yet if I Jerusalem
Out of my heart let slide;
Then let my fingers quite forget
The warbling harp to guide:
6 And let my tongue within my mouth
Be tied for ever fast,
If I rejoice before I see
Thy full deliv'rance past.
7 Therefore, O Lord, remember now
The cursèd noise and cry
That Edom's sons against us made,
When they razed our city.
8 Remember, Lord, their cruel words,
When with a mighty sound
They cried; Down. yea, down with it
Unto the very ground.
9 E'en so shalt thou, O Babylon,
At length to dust be brought;
And happy shall that man be called,
That our revenge hath wrought:
10 Yea, blessèd shall that man be called,
That takes thy little ones,
And dasheth them in pieces small
Against the very stones.
Metrical 'New Version' (Tate/Brady)
1 When we, our wearied limbs to rest,
Sat down by proud Euphrates' stream,
We wept, with doleful thoughts oppress'd,
And Sion was our mournful theme.
2 Our harps, that when with joy we sung
Were wont their tuneful parts to bear,
With silent strings neglected hung
On willow trees that wither'd there.
3 Meanwhile our foes, who all conspir'd
To triumph in our slavish wrongs,
Musick and mirth of us requir'd;
Come, sing us one of Sion s songs.
4 How shall we tune our voice to sing
Or touch our harps with skilful hands?
Shall hymns of joy to God our King
Be sung by slaves in foreign lands?
5 O Salem, our once happy seat,
When I of thee forgetful prove,
Let then my trembling hand forget
The speaking strings with art to move!
6 If I to mention thee forbear,
Eternal silence seize my tongue;
Or if I sing one cheerful air,
Till thy deliv'rance is my song!
7 Remember, Lord, how Edom's race,
In thy own city's fatal day,
Cried out, Her stately walls deface,
And with the ground quite level lay.
8 Proud Babel's daughter, doom'd to be
Of grief and woe the wretched prey;
Bless'd is the man who shall to thee
The wrongs thou lay'st on us repay.
9 Thrice blest, who with just rage possest,
And deaf to all the parents' moans,
Shall snatch thy infants from the breast,
And dash their heads against the stones.
Metrical Paraphrase by Joel Barlow, 1785
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. If ever my memory lose thy lovely name,
If my cold heart neglect my kindred race,
Let dire destruction seize this guilty frame:
My hand shall perish, and my voice shall cease.
6. 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.