Saturday, June 24, 2006

forgetting Zion

Psalms 137
1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2
There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?

I memorized this passage when I was not more than 10. I remember the images of expatriated people, mourning on riverbanks, caught in my mind. I pitied their sadness. I too was sad for them. Recently, I ran into a song—a take off this psalm. I love its depressive mood. I love that it is sung in a low base rumble. I’ve played it a million times. It grips the soul of this expatriate. The poetry, the imagery, the subtle message--absolutely amazing!

By the Rivers Dark

By Leonard Cohen

By the rivers dark
I wandered on.
I lived my life
In Babylon.

And I did forget
My holy song:
And I had no strength
In Babylon.

By the rivers dark
Where I could not see
Who was waiting there
Who was hunting me.

And he cut my lip
And he cut my heart.
So I could not drink
From the river dark.

And he covered me,
And I saw within,
My lawless heart
And my wedding ring,

I did not know
And I could not see
Who was waiting there,
Who was hunting me.

By the rivers dark
I panicked on.
I belonged at last
To Babylon.

Then he struck my heart
With a deadly force,
And he said, ‘This heart:
It is not yours.’

And he gave the wind
My wedding ring;
And he circled us
With everything.

By the rivers dark,
In a wounded dawn,
I live my life
In Babylon.

Though I take my song
From a withered limb,
Both song and tree,
They sing for him.

Be the truth unsaid
And the blessing gone,
If I forget
My Babylon.

I did not know
And I could not see
Who was waiting there,
Who was hunting me.

By the rivers dark,
Where it all goes on;
By the rivers dark
In Babylon.

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