Why does Stephen Vincent Benet give his post-apocalyptic short story the title "By the Waters of Babylon"?
The title of Stephen Vincent Benet's post-apocalyptic short story, "By the Waters of Babylon" alludes to the first line of Psalm 137 (136), Super flumina Babylonis: "By the rivers [waters] of Babylon, there we sat down, yes, we wept, when we remembered Zion." This psalm of sorrowful reflection recalls Israel's national tragedy of conquest, deportation and exile to Babylon in 586 B.C., characterised--at least in the first few lines--by a restrained nostalgia for what was lost. As the surviving Jews lamented over the destruction of Jerusalem, so John, the protagonist of Benet's short story wistfully remembers "the Place of the Gods--the place newyork," levelled by the atomic folly of man.
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