Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
A Paraphrase of the One Hundred and Thirty-Fourth Psalm
By Jane Turell (1708–1735)
AS on the margin of Euphrates’ flood
We wail’d our sins, and mourn’d an angry God;
For God provoked, to strangers gave our land,
And by a righteous Judge condemn’d we stand;
Deep were our groans, our griefs without compare,        5
With ardent cries we rent the yielding air.
Borne down with woes no friend at hand was found,
No helper in the waste and barren ground:
Only a mournful willow wither’d there,
Its aged arms by winter storms made bare;        10
On this our lyres, now useless grown, we hung,
Our lyres by us forsaken and unstrung!
We sigh’d in chains, and sunk beneath our wo,
Whilst more insulting our proud tyrants grow.
From hearts oppress’d with grief they did require        15
A sacred anthem on the sounding lyre:
Come, now, they cry, regale us with a song,
Music and mirth the fleeting hours prolong.
Shall Babel’s daughter hear that blessed sound?
Shall songs divine be sung in heathen ground?        20
No, Heaven forbid that we should tune our voice,
Or touch the lyre! whilst slaves we can’t rejoice.
O Palestina! our once dear abode,
Thou once wert blest with peace, and loved by God!
But now art desolate, a barren waste,        25
Thy fruitful fields by thorns and weeds defaced.
If I forget Judea’s mournful land,
May nothing prosper that I take in hand!
Or if I string the lyre, or tune my voice,
Till thy deliverance cause me to rejoice;        30
O may my tongue forget her art to move,
And may I never more my speech improve!
Return, O Lord! avenge us of our foes,
Destroy the men that up against us rose:
Let Edom’s sons thy just displeasure know,        35
And, like us, serve some foreign conquering foe
In distant realms; far from their native home,
To which dear seat O let them never come!
  Thou, Babel’s daughter! author of our wo,
Shalt feel the stroke of some revenging blow:        40
Thy walls and towers be levell’d with the ground,
Sorrow and grief shall in each soul be found:
Thrice blest the man, who, that auspicious night,
Shall seize thy trembling infants in thy sight;
Regardless of thy flowing tears and moans,        45
And dash the tender babes against the stones. 1
Note 1. Her father says of this Paraphrase, “The serious melancholy Psalm is well turned in the most parts of it, considering your years and advantages for such a performance. You speak of a single withered willow which they hung their harps on; but Euphrates was covered with willows along the banks of it, so that it has been called the River of Willows. I hope, my dear, your lyre will not be hung on such a sorrowful shrub. Go on in sacred songs, and we ’ll hang it on the stately cedars of Lebanon. Or let the pleasant elm before the door where you are suffice for you.” [back]

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