This song comes from the story of the Jewish people's captivity. They were ordered to sing for their captors ("Sing us one of the songs of Zion") but chose to quit singing instead of using...
On the willows, there
We hung up our lyres
For our captors there
Required
Of us songs
And our tormentors mirth
On the willows, there
We hung up our lyres
For our captors there
Required
Of us songs
And our tormentor's mirth
Saying
Sing us one
Of the songs of Zion
Sing us one
Of the songs of Zion
But how can we sing?
Sing the Lord's songs?
In a foreign land?


Lyrics submitted by weezerific:cutlery

On the Willows song meanings
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4 Comments

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  • +1
    General CommentHi, all! Am in a production of Godspell atm, and this is definitely one of my favorites!. The opening line definitely is "On the willows there, we hung up our lyres"

    The lyre is an ancient musical instrument, often used as accompaniment to singing; to 'hang it up' means in this context giving up music because of sorrow. When the Hebrews were conquered and hauled off to Babylon, their new masters wanted fresh entertainment. The entire song is a direct quote of Psalm 137:2-4 (RSV Bible)
    dancingcraneon September 25, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI performed in this musical earlier this year, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Since there were only ten of us, we were a very close-knit cast. I don't remember if it was in the script, but throughout the show each character developed a little secret handshake with Jesus. During "On the Willows", he came around to each person and did the handshake or motion. This, more so than the finale, had the audience (and the cast) in tears. I don't love the words or the lyrics so much as the feel of the song. It just feels like a tender goodbye.

    Since the band sang this song, however, I've had the lyrics wrong forever. I thought it said "we hung up our lives", as some allusion to the cross. Now that I know it's "lyres" it makes a lot more sense.
    ShoshanaSkyon October 09, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI performed in Godspell in 1990 and from memory the band actually sings this song, not the cast, and it takes place (I think) as the diciples are praying with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. I think it simply means that the deciples had totally given themselves to following their master to whatever end -- for whatever may be required - hence "we hung up our lives" (even though in one score they write "we hung up our Lyres"). ?? "For our captors there required" - all of these events simply had to be - as they would soon come for Jesus ("captors").
    andyzarboson March 18, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song, is probably one of my favorite in godspell. to me, the melody was what i loved, not so much the lyrics.
    littlemissmarkieon July 12, 2007   Link

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