Charles Harpur

The Babylonian Captivity

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By far Euphrates’ stream we state,
A weary band of herded slaves,
And over Judah’s fallen estate
We wept into the passing waves.

On willow-boughs that o’er us bent
Our once glad-sounding harps were hung,
That but the wild wind, as it went,
Might grieve their wailful chords among.

But they who spoiled us—even they
Who wasted us with daily wrongs,
To make them mirth did asking say:
“Come sing us one of Zion’s songs!”

How can with us the will remain
To strike the harp with fettered hand?
How can we sing a joyful strain
As captives in a foreign land?

And when, Jerussalem! We let
Thy memory pass on Time’s grey wing,
May our right hands at once forget
Their mastery o’er the sounding string!

Yea, let our tongues to song be dumb,
As in a dull and voiceless dream,
Till to thy courts again we come
And thy redemption be the theme!

Then, Edom, thou shalt get thy wound!
For thou, on Zion’s evil day,
Saidst—“Raze her beauty to the ground,
And captive drive her sons away!”

And lo! Yet fiercer visions rise,
The day is fixed, the hour is known,
When, Babylon! Thy fateful skies
Shall raid red wrath and ruin down!

Till by thy towers all overthrown,
Thy daughters, desolate as we,
Each with her shame shall sit alone,
With shame and wild-faced misery!

And then may the avenger dash
Thy children’s heads against stones;
For so, ’mid Zion’s falling crash,
Didst thou with all our little ones.

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Charles Harpur