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By the Waters of Babylon

B.C. 570

October 1866

by Christina Rossetti
Here where I dwell I waste to skin and bone;
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By the Waters of Babylon

B.C. 570

October 1866

by Christina Rossetti
Here where I dwell I waste to skin and bone;
  The curse is come upon me, and I waste
  In penal torment powerless to atone.
The curse is come on me, which makes no haste
  And doth not tarry, crushing both the proud
  Hard man and him the sinner double-faced.
Look not upon me, for my soul is bowed
  Within me, as my body in this mire;
  My soul crawls dumb-struck, sore-bested and cowed.
As Sodom and Gomorrah scourged by fire,
  As Jericho before God's trumpet-peal,
  So we the elect ones perish in His ire.
Vainly we gird on sackcloth, vainly kneel
  With famished faces toward Jerusalem:
  His heart is shut against us not to feel,
His ears against our cry He shutteth them,
  His hand He shorteneth that He will not save,
  His law is loud against us to condemn:
And we, as unclean bodies in the grave
  Inheriting corruption and the dark,
  Are outcast from His presence which we crave.
Our Mercy hath departed from His Ark,
  Our Glory hath departed from His rest,
  Our Shield hath left us naked as a mark
Unto all pitiless eyes made manifest.
  Our very Father hath forsaken us,
  Our God hath cast us from Him: we oppressed
Unto our foes are even marvellous,
  A hissing and a butt for pointing hands,
  Whilst God Almighty hunts and grinds us thus;
For He hath scattered us in alien lands,
  Our priests, our princes, our anointed king,
  And bound us hand and foot with brazen bands.
Here while I sit my painful heart takes wing
  Home to the home-land I must see no more,
  Where milk and honey flow, where waters spring
And fail not, where I dwelt in days of yore
  Under my fig-tree and my fruitful vine,
  There where my parents dwelt at ease before:
Now strangers press the olives that are mine,
  Reap all the corners of my harvest-field,
  And make their fat hearts wanton with my wine;
To them my trees, to them my garden yield
  Their sweets and spices and their tender green,
  O'er them in noontide heat outspread their shield.
Yet these are they whose fathers had not been
  Housed with my dogs, whom hip and thigh we smote
  And with their blood washed their pollutions clean,
Purging the land which spewed them from its throat;
  Their daughters took we for a pleasant prey,
  Choice tender ones on whom the fathers doat.
Now they in turn have led our own away;
  Our daughters and our sisters and our wives
  Sore weeping as they weep who curse the day,
To live, remote from help, dishonoured lives,
  Soothing their drunken masters with a song,
  Or dancing in their golden tinkling gyves:
Accurst if they remember through the long
  Estrangement of their exile, twice accursed
  If they forget and join the accursèd throng.
How doth my heart that is so wrung not burst
  When I remember that my way was plain,
  And that God's candle lit me at the first,
Whilst now I grope in darkness, grope in vain,
  Desiring but to find Him Who is lost,
  To find Him once again, but once again.
His wrath came on us to the uttermost,
  His covenanted and most righteous wrath:
  Yet this is He of Whom we made our boast,
Who lit the Fiery Pillar in our path,
  Who swept the Red Sea dry before our feet,
  Who in His jealousy smote kings, and hath
Sworn once to David: One shall fill thy seat
  Born of thy body, as the sun and moon
  'Stablished for aye in sovereignty complete.
O Lord, remember David, and that soon.
  The Glory hath departed, Ichabod!
  Yet now, before our sun grow dark at noon,
Before we come to nought beneath Thy rod,
  Before we go down quick into the pit,
  Remember us for good, O God, our God:—
Thy Name will I remember, praising it,
  Though Thou forget me, though Thou hide Thy face,
  And blot me from the Book which Thou hast writ;
Thy Name will I remember in my praise
  And call to mind Thy faithfulness of old,
Though as a weaver Thou cut off my days,
  And end me as a tale ends that is told.

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