Context: The captive Israelites, the psalmist recalls, would sit on the Babylonian river banks and weep for Jerusalem. Sorrowful in a foreign land, they are unable to meet the demands of their captors that they entertain them with Jewish songs. Proclaiming his faithfulness to Jerusalem, the bard curses the sons of Cain, who aided the Babylonians in destroying the temple and the holy city. The poet describes the plight of the Hebrew prisoners:
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 a song; and they that wasted us 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.