The Linnet's Wings :Take All My Loves, My Love - Page 48

The Linnet´s Wings for what you did to us. Happy who seizes and smashes your infants against the rock. Robert Alter Translation The Edomites, ally to Babylon, have destroyed Jerusalem. The newly enslaved Israelites are being marched by their captors to foreign soil. Along the way, their enemies require of them a joyful song, for which Israel is famous. The Babylonians chose carefully the survivors of that holocaust, garnering people of talent in crafts and arts. This group is made up of musicians, carrying their lyres with them. They seem to be women since their curse is aimed at their counterparts, the daughters of Babylon. The request of the Babylonian captor is outrageous, and the speaker suitably enraged. The captives bravely resist; hanging their instruments in the poplar trees, they refuse their masters’ cruel request. They are adamant; the hand that would pluck the strings should wither, and the tongue that would sing, forgetting Zion, should stick to the roof of the singer’s mouth. This fierce devotion is more intense than joy or solace. The psalm’s conclusion is shocking. The revenge recalls what they have witnessed and suffered; the cruel murder of their infants, shattered upon the rocks before their eyes. The women bless those who will slaughter the children of Babylonian mothers, so they will know what they have done. To preserve the notion of Biblical sweetness -- some insist the cruel image ending Psalm 137 is not vengeful – is to forget Zion and its sufferings. When we are done with holocausts, we can afford to mistake the ferocity of Psalm 137 for some- thing sweeter. [This verse is not a bit of biblical wisdom but a near-mad cry of mothers frantic with the hellish images of their children smashed by enemy soldiers. Whose child is pictured here?] Psalm 139 For those who ask where God is, Psalm 139 answers. The organizing force for good is everywhere; in the womb that forms us, deep in our bones and hearts and mind. God is with us always, and in our most private places. Before we utter a word, God knows what we will say and what we mean by it, even when we would prefer not to. God resides in our pious thoughts and in our hellish ones, too. When our thoughts are dark, God knows what we feel and think, and judges us without evasion. God is the principle and force of truth and goodness, observing and judging our deviant selves. God upholds our better self when we know we are going wrong, even as we cleverly seek to justify our self-betrayal. 48