The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero)/Poetry/Volume 3/Hebrew Melodies/By the Rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept
BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON WE SAT DOWN AND WEPT.
We sate down and wept by the waters
Of Babel, and thought of the day
When our foe, in the hue of his slaughters,
Made Salem's high places his prey;
And Ye, oh her desolate daughters!
Were scattered all weeping away.
While sadly we gazed on the river
Which rolled on in freedom below,
They demanded the song; but, oh never
That triumph the Stranger shall know!
May this right hand be withered for ever,
Ere it string our high harp for the foe!
On the willow that harp is suspended,
Oh Salem! its sound should be free;
And the hour when thy glories were ended
But left me that token of thee:
And ne'er shall its soft tones be blended
With the voice of the Spoiler by me!
Jan. 15, 1813.
- [The following note, in Byron's handwriting, is prefixed to the copy in Lady Byron's handwriting:—
"Dear Kinnaird,—Take only one of these marked 1 and 2 [i.e. 'By the Rivers,' etc.; and 'By the waters,' vide p. 404], as both are but different versions of the same thought—leave the choice to any important person you like.
- [Landor, in his "Dialogue between Southey and Porson" (Works, 1846, i. 69), attempted to throw ridicule on the opening lines of this "Melody."
"A prey in 'the hue of his slaughters'! This is very pathetic; but not more so than the thought it suggested to me, which is plainer—
'We sat down and wept by the waters
Of Camus, and thought of the day
When damsels would show their red garters
In their hurry to scamper away.'"]
Our mute harps were hung on the willow
That grew by the stream of our foe,
And in sadness we gazed on each billow
That rolled on in freedom below.—[MS. erased.]
On the willow that harp still hangs mutely
Oh Salem its sound was for thee.—[MS. erased.]