We are the displaced persons of the world, the dispossessed.
We present protests and complaints, but no wrongs are redressed.
We are herded into a train which crawls on and on
Past stations we’ve never heard of towards some Babylon.
Somewhere in the middle of a naked plain the train stops,
And we are ordered out to plough the land and grow crops.
We weep by waters; and our masters heap wrong upon wrong.
Commanding us, Sing us a few verses from your Lord’s Song;
A praise of the Lord who will lead you out of affliction.
Behold! the bright noonday sun gives you its benediction.
We remember our brave who died on the battle-field.
Would that they were with us to be our strength and shield.
It is rumored that tomorrow we will go on again
To plough and sow and clothe another piece of this naked plain.
Modern secular people might not be too interested in being compared to the Israelites lamenting their exile in Babylon but this historical resonance is woven in with images that remind us of the fate of displaced persons and refugees in modern times, perhaps particularly the train transported Jews of World War II.
On another level this is the evocation of the fate of all true believers who have lost their citizenship in the world, who trust in the journey through the unknown, whose only choice is acceptance of the journey, who follow on trust the rumour of a lord and a future.
The modern world of power-possessing beings mocks any simple trust and the songs that praise the God of belief. The bright midday sun is no blessing to those labouring on the open plain.
So many of the towering figures who belonged to the ages of faith are now dead. We have only the acceptance of our tasks, cultivating the naked plain, in other words, the exposed emptiness which is our lot.