They have taken us away to a desolate land
In the midst of waste waters, an island of sand.
They laugh, Here you may grow wheat in the sweat of your faces—
For you have told us that in servitude your Master’s grace is.
They demand a song; so we hang our hearts on a bough
In the midst of the Tree of Life through which God’s winds sough:
Long ago our hearts were pierced with holes as his flutes,
And the songs they make we offer to him as his fruits.
Strange, our barbarian captors seem touched by our songs—
For they multiply our burdens and increase our wrongs.
Our Beloved, our Master and Friend, is with us—
For the blows and burdens are his benign, Thus and thus.
We have found priceless treasure in this hope-forsaken place:
Nothing now can distract us from contemplating your face.
Here is the immemorial song of the homeless and exiled where misfortune becomes an affirmation of identity. Some previous songs along this line specifically recalled the Babylonian exile of the Jews (see 88 and 89 and Psalm 137:2) but this is more universal. It represents the plight of all those who suffer for their faith. It stands ready to inspire His lovers if it ever comes to this.
Hanging our hearts on a bough in the midst of the Tree of Life, is a great image which conveys the ability to go beyond the sufferings of the moment. This is the faith that has inspired martyrs and the oppressed.
A real contrast here to Eliot’s The Waste Land.
‘His benign Thus and thus’ is an imagining of the voice of the Master saying, “Such is the way of truth, only thus in exile from the world is My face revealed.”
The songs of the heart are born only from the resigned will.