"How Shall We Sing The Lord's Song In A Strange Land?"

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Last Updated on May 24, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 176

Context: The poet recalls an experience from the time of the captivity of the Israelites in Babylon. The prisoners, who sit weeping on the river banks of Babylon, and remember Jerusalem, hang their harps on trees beside the river because their captors have demanded that they amuse them with Jewish songs. The Israelites, however, cannot sing their songs in a foreign, or unclean, land. Declaring his devotion to Jerusalem, the psalmist utters a vehement curse against the Edomites, the descendants of Esau who abetted the Babylonians in their destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. Describing the plight of the captured Israelites, the poet says:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For there they that carried us away captive required of us . . . mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

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