The last of Will Butler’s daily songs inspired by Guardian stories is “By The Waters Of Babylon,” a mournful ballad written in response to ISIS ransacking the museum at Mosul and destroying dozens of ancient artifacts. Here’s what the Arcade Fire sideman wrote about his creation:
The words to today’s song are taken from Psalm 137. It’s a song of sorrow and rage from the mouth of a refugee whose city has been destroyed. The sorrow portion of the psalm is extremely famous and often quoted — “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” The rage portion of the psalm is less often brought up — “O daughter of Babylon … happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth they little ones against the stones.”
I can’t imagine the sorrow and rage of the people whose lands have been overrun by Isis, whose family and friends are murdered, whose culture is being destroyed.
This song is not a policy prescription. The last lines should evoke horror. But the emotions behind the words are ancient and real.
Mosul is a part of our heritage, part of the world’s heritage, and the loss of its history is heartbreaking.
Hear “By The Waters Of Babylon” below.
Butler’s debut solo album, Policy, is out 3/10 on Merge.