Lamentation over Boston (William Billings)

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  • (Posted 2016-09-26)   CPDL #41242:   
Editor: Aaron Giles (submitted 2016-09-26).   Score information: Letter, 7 pages, 90 kB   Copyright: Public Domain
Edition notes: Transcribed from The Singing Master's Assistant
  • CPDL #33121:       
Editor: Barry Johnston (submitted 2014-10-11).   Score information: Letter, 4 pages, 102 kB   Copyright: Public Domain
Edition notes: Complete score, oval-note format. Transcribed from The Singing-Master's Assistant, 1778. Re-formatted 2018-01-04. MusicXML source file is in compressed .mxl format.
  • CPDL #02039:  Network.png
Editor: Laura Conrad (submitted 2001-01-31).   Copyright: GnuGPL
Edition notes: Partbook format.
  • CPDL #02038:  Network.png
Editor: Laura Conrad (submitted 2001-01-31).   Copyright: GnuGPL
Edition notes: Score format.
Error.gif Possible error(s) identified. Error summary: In the above two links, the work only available in partbook format, shape-note. There is also a LilyPond file in partbook format. ID #2039 does not exist.

General Information

Title: Lamentation over Boston}} Composer: William Billings

Number of voices: 4vv   Voicing: SATB
Genre: SacredAnthem

Language: English
Instruments: A cappella

First published: 1778 in The Singing Master's Assistant

Description: First published in TheSinging Master's Assistant (1778). A setting of a text (apparently by Billings) alluding to Psalm 137, Jeremiah 3:21 and 31:20, and to the events of the American Revolution. A personal, emotional statement, and a powerful illustration of how the American Revolution tore families and friends apart.

References: Barbour (1960), pages 11, 110-112.

Original text and translations

English.png English text

By the Rivers of Watertown we sat down and wept,
we wept when we remember'd, O Boston.
Lord God of Heaven, preserve them, defend them,
deliver and restore them unto us again.
Forbid it, Lord God,
forbid that those who have sucked Bostonian Breasts
should thirst for American Blood.
A voice was heard in Roxbury which eccho'd thro' the Continent,
weeping for Boston because of their Danger.
Is Boston my dear Town, is it my native Place?
for since their Calamity I do earnestly remember it still!
If I forget thee, yea, if I do not remember thee,
Then let my numbers cease to flow, Then be my Muse unkind,
Then let my Tongue forget to move and ever be confin'd;
Let horrid Jargon split the Air and rive my nerves asunder.
Let hateful discord greet my ear as terrible as Thunder.
Let harmony be banish'd hence and Consonance depart;
Let dissonance erect her throne and reign within my Heart.