Psalm 136.  Super flumina

True love for Jerusalem

This beautifully tender elegy depicts the longing and love of the exiled Jews for their Jerusalem.  The Christian can always feel like an exile and stranger: his Jerusalem is the heavenly city of God and the outer court of his temple is the Catholic Church.  This is the Messianic Sion of heaven that he addresses in the Psalm, protesting a warm love and a mighty longing.  He can also think of the holy Eucharist.  The curses of the two concluding verses are only a matter of completing the picture.


Super flúmina Babylónis, illic sédimus et flévimus: * cum recordarémur Sion:
2  In salícibus in médio ejus, * suspéndimus órgana nostra.

By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, * when we remembered thee, O Sion.
2  Upon the willow trees that are therein, * we hanged up our harps.

Scoffed and scorned

3  Quia illic interrogavérunt nos, qui captívos duxérunt nos, * verba cantiónum.
4  Et qui abduxérunt nos: * Hymnum cantáte nobis de cánticis Sion.

3  For they that led us away captive, * required of us then a song.
4  And they that carried us away, said : * Sing us one of the songs of Sion.

Love for Jerusalem

5  Quómodo cantábimus cánticum Dómini * in terra aliéna?
6  Si oblítus fúero tui, Jerúsalem, * oblivióni detur déxtera mea.
7  Adhæreat lingua mea fáucibus meis, * si non memínero tui.
8  Si non proposúero Jerúsalem, * in princípio lætítiæ meæ.

5  How shall we sing the song of the Lord * in a strange land?
6  If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, * let my right hand be forgotten.
7  Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, * if I do not remember thee.
8  Yea, if I make not Jerusalem, * the beginning of my joy.

Punishment for Edom

9  Memor esto, Dómine, filiórum Edom, * in die Jerúsalem.
10  Qui dicunt: Exinaníte, exinaníte * usque ad fundaméntum in ea.

9  Remember the children of Edom, O Lord, * in the day of Jerusalem.
10  Who say, Rase it, rase it, * even to the ground.

Punishment for Babylon

11  Fília Babylónis mísera: * beátus, qui retríbuet tibi retributiónem tuam, quam retribuísti nobis.
12  Beátus qui tenébit, * et allídet párvulos tuos ad petram.

11  O daughter of Babylon, wasted with misery; * yea, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
12  Blessed shall he be that shall take * and dash thy little ones against the stones.