Thursday, August 5, 2010

If I Forget Thee Jerusalem


By the rivers of Babylon
there we sat and wept,
remembering Zion;
on the poplars that grew there
we hung up our harps.

For it was there that they asked us,
our captors, for songs,
our oppressors, for joy.
"Sing to us," they said,
"one of Zion's songs."

O how could we sing
the song of the Lord
on alien soil?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
let my right hand wither!

O let my tongue
cleave to my mouth
if I remember you not,
if I prize not Jerusalem
above all my joys!*

*Alternately translated as:  "May I never be able to play the harp again if forget you, Jerusalem!/May I never be able to sing again if I do not remember you,/if I do not think of you as my greatest joy!"

6 comments:

Schultz said...

Beautiful song by a bunch of beautiful singers. My wife and I danced to their "You Have Caught Me" for our first dance at our wedding.

Pentimento said...

I love it too, Schultz.

Tertium Quid said...

Psalm 137 expresses bitterness and stubborn faith, a compulsion to lash out tempered with piety almost but not completely annihilated.

Pentimento said...

TQ, I used Ps. 137 in my dissertation as an early example of the music-penitence motif in Judeo-Christian theology: the temple musician vows to never sing or play again, establishing his own penance, should he forget the holy city.

I do love the Melodians' version though.

Ana said...

I was looking for Lillian Hellman's book and found your blog.
I like it very much.
Thank you.

Pentimento said...

I'm so glad, Ana! Welcome here.