This famous elegy was written in the sixth century by Rabbi Elazar HaKalir.
For Zion and her towns complain
Like woman in her birthing pain
Or like a sackcloth girded maid
Whose husband in the ground’s been laid.
For devastation of her hall
By wretched flock’s most sinful fall;
For blasphemers who boldly came
Into the room that housed His name.
For holy priests in exile grim,
And singers of her faithful hymn;
For rivers of their kindred blood
Which coursed through courtyards in a flood.
For cities cloaked in silence thick–
Sans joyful calls from dances quick;
For meeting room that’s barren of
Men’s learned words and wars of love.
And for her daily sacrifice,
Redemption of her firstborns’ price,
For sacred bowls defilers broke,
For ceasing of her incense smoke.
For sons of kings without their swords,
Good David’s children, Zion’s lords,
Whose faces fair were darkened when
Her shining crowns were reft from them.
For Glory which, at that time, fled
Her ruined home amidst the dead.
For foeman fell, oppression cruel,
For sackcloth worn instead of wool.
For painful wounds and lashes strong
Her patient princes suffered long.
For bodies of her babes and youth
–smashed on stones without all ruth.
For gaiety of hateful foes
Who laughed to see her shames and woes.
And for free men reduced to scorn —
The pure of heart and noble born.
For crooked paths towards which she turned
From happy road in childhood learned.
And for her sad and swarthy throngs
All burnt by sins and scorched by wrongs.
For imprecating voices shrill
When rife she was with corpses still;
And for the shrieks and echoed call
Of stranger’s curse within her Hall.
O for Thy name that’s been profaned
By those who with her blood are stained.
When Exile’s prayer they cry to Thee
Incline and hear and set her free!