Entry 132, August 3rd, 2011, 3:01am (GMT +2)
Paulo Coelho's “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept” ends with a reference to Psalm 137. I don't know psalm 137 (or any of the others, for that matter) so I grabbed a copy of the bible from the ship's library and looked it up.
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem over my chief joy.
Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation therof.
O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou has served us.
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”
It is the cry of an exile, someone who will never see home again. His sorrow is so great that he wonders how he could ever make music again, but his captors jeer and force him to play on. On the outside, he gives in to them, but inside he keeps his love for his homeland alive. He promises that should he ever forget his love, may his “right hand forget her cunning . . . (and) let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”
Then his sorrow crystallizes into hatred. He wishes the destruction of those who have taken him from his home, even down to women and infants. This is the part of the psalm that bothers me . . . although as much as I think hatred is never the solution, it is a very human response to the speaker's situation. I think it gives the psalm an added layer of power . . . it is a message that I do not want to internalize, but it is one that resonates deep inside nonetheless.