The Brothers Karamazov

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Boy #4

I overheard something, too.  Something that shook me down to the bone.  It was when Ilyusha’s father, the Captain, ran from the house, quoting that Psalm.  I know that Psalm – it’s Psalm 137.  It’s about sorrow and hope in exile, and it goes:



I.          By the waters of Babylon

we sat mourning and weeping

when we remembered Zion.

On the poplars of this land

we hung up our harps.

There our captors asked us

for the words of a song;

Our tormentors, for a joyful song:

“Sing for us a song of Zion!”

But how could we sing a song of the Lord

in a foreign land?


II.        If I forget you, Jerusalem,

may my right hand wither.

May my tongue stick to my palate

if I do not remember you,

If I do not exalt Jerusalem

beyond all my delights.


III.       Remember Lord, against Edom

that day at Jerusalem.

They said: “Level it, level it

down to its foundations!”

Fair Babylon, you destroyer,

happy those you pay you back

the evil you have done us!

Happy those who seize your children

and smash them against a rock.


I started to wonder: what is the Captain thinking when he recites this vengeful psalm?  Isn’t it vengeance that’s killing poor Ilyusha?

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