Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Come, Ye Sinners (I Will Arise)

Praise for the Lord #113

Words: Joseph Hart, 1759; chorus, Walker's Southern Harmony, 1835
Music: Walker's Southern Harmony, 1835 (RESTORATION)

The three stanzas given in this arrangement of Hart's hymn are the same as those discussed in the preceding post, so I will only note here the few changes that appear, and the chorus that was added.

Hart's original six-line stanzas are abbreviated to the more common "ballad stanza" or quatrain by simply lopping off the last two lines. Though there is something of Hart's message lost, of course, he did tend to reach his point by the 3rd and 4th lines of each stanza, and use the 5th and 6th to reinforce his statement. The omission of these lines is thus less catastrophic to the overall meaning of the hymn, and to the structure of the poetry itself, than would usually be the case.

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome,
God's free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Ev'ry grace that brings us nigh.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and broken, full of sin;
If you tarry till you're better,
You may never enter in.

The chorus that follows each stanza, however, is by an entirely different hand:

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O! There are ten thousand charms.

Raymond Glover has identified this as a variant on one of the stanzas of Caleb Jarvis Taylor's "Don't you see my Jesus coming?"(Glover, v.3, p.550)
I will arise and go to meet Him,
And embrace Him in my arms,
In the arms of my dear Jesus,
O there are ten thousand charms
Caleb Jarvis Taylor (1763-1816) was a schoolteacher from Maryland who served as a fill-in preacher for Methodist churches in western Virginia and Pennsylvania. In 1792 he moved to north central Kentucky, where he continued to teach school as his primary support, but preached wherever and whenever he could. Sometimes he preached as an official circuit rider sponsored by a Methodist association, but more often it was his willingness to fill vacancies for other preachers that kept him in the pulpit.(Fry, 403ff.) He was the founder of the Mt. Gilead Methodist Church just north of Paris, Kentucky, also known as the Old Matheny Meeting House, probably the earliest Methodist congregation in that area northeast of Lexington.(City Buzz) By 1795 he relocated to the vicinity of what is now Maysville, Kentucky, along the Ohio River.(Steele & Hulan, 73)

The Mt. Gilead meeting house was less than ten miles from the famous Cane Ridge meeting house, and Taylor's new home was only around 50 miles north on the old road that is today U.S. Route 68, so it was inevitable that Taylor was right in the thick of the Second Great Awakening. And though he was known to be a successful revivalist, he was noted by his contemporaries as well as by modern historians as one of the chief songwriters of this watershed moment in American religious history.(See list of Taylor sources at the end of the References section.)

Though much of the camp-meeting singing was still from Watts and Wesley, this movement sparked an outburst of new songs that seemed to be cut from the same rough timber as a frontier meeting-house, or as the men and women who worshiped in them. The lyrics were direct and unpolished, and the tunes were often the same that might be heard from any backwoods fiddler or balladeer. Many have been traced to the old English and Scottish ballads of earlier centuries. Taylor's lyrics were not the sort to last for centuries, but like King David who "served the purpose of God in his own generation,"(Acts 13:36) they fanned the flames of zeal in a great popular revival of interest in spiritual matters--something we stand sorely in need of today.

Taylor's first publication of hymns appears to have been the Spiritual Songs of 1804. I do not know if "Don't you see my Jesus coming?" was in that collection, but this hymn was in circulation before then, whether orally or in print; Elijah Woolsey, a Methodist preacher working in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, knew it as early as 1802.(Woolsey, 81-83) Interestingly, the particular stanza in question was dropped in some later versions of Taylor's hymn, but in both its original and in its modern altered form it found a second life as a chorus:
  • Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Use of Christians, 8th edition (Baltimore: Warner & Hanna, 1806). Here Taylor's stanza, still close to its original form, is actually made a chorus to the hymn from which it sprang, "Don't you see my Jesus coming."(Hymnary.org)
  • In the Sacred Harp community the revised form of the "I will arise" text is well known as the chorus to "Come, Thou Fount of every blessing," which is sung to the 1835 Southern Harmony tune RESTORATION. This was introduced in  J. S. James's Original Sacred Harp in 1911,(Glover, v.3, p.550) but the association of this chorus with "Come, Thou Fount" goes back much further. A General Selection of the Newest and Most Admired Hymns and Spiritual Songs Now in Use, ed. Stith Mead (Richmond, Va.: Stith Mead, 1807) accompanies "Come, Thou Fount" with Jarvis's original stanza as a chorus.(Hymnary.org)
  • Lindsey Watson's Singer's Choice (Louisville, Kentucky, 1874) employs the revised form of this text as a chorus to "Mercy, O Thou Son of David." This is also sung to the Southern Harmony tune, and has a long tradition among Primitive Baptists.(Glover, v.3, p.550)
  • Philip P. Bliss included the revised chorus in his 1874 Gospel Songs (incidentally, this was the publication that popularized the designation "gospel songs"), pairing it with the text "Far, far away from my loving Father." He notes that it was "furnished by S. H. Price," and calls it "one of the old-fashioned camp-meeting spirituals."
  • Other less common pairings are "Listen, sinner, mercy hails you" (Standard Church Hymnal, 1888) and "O'er the weary roads of sadness" (Windows of Heaven, 1894)
The most fascinating aspect of this evolution is the re-invention of the lyrics to suit a completely different subject. Taylor's original hymn is about Christ's second coming, and the stanza in question was an impassioned imagining of the soul's response at the first sight of the long-sought Savior. But with the alteration of just a few words, this became an invitation to come to Jesus for salvation; in particular, the phrase "I will arise and go" connected in people's minds with the words of the repentant prodigal son, "I will arise and go to my father."(Luke 15:18) The actions of the prodigal's father are also suggested, who "ran and embraced him and kissed him."(Luke 15:20)

But there is something else in this text that makes me think it might be at least partially descended from some secular song--the line "In the arms of my dear Savior / O there are ten thousand charms." Substitute "sweetheart" for "Savior," and you have an entirely different song! It is also possible that Taylor had in mind some of the language of the Song of Solomon:
I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, but I found him not.(Song of Solomon 3:2)

My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.(Song of Solomon 5:10)
Many readers will also recognize in the latter quotation a possible inspiration for the line "He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul" in the old song, "I have found a Friend in Jesus." Such expansive and dramatic language of endearment toward Jesus was a part of the spirit of the times--and if it is sung sincerely, what is wrong with that?

About the music:

The tune "I will arise" (RESTORATION in some books) is an old and widely traveled melody. George Pullen Jackson identified connections with other early American hymns and secular songs suggesting a family of related tunes.(Spiritual Folk Songs, #239) Jackson also determined that the most likely ancestor is the very old Scottish ballad "Hind Horn," #17 in the Child ballads.("Some Factors," 368 n.9) Here are some of this tune's different incarnations:

Missouri All-State Choir 2012, a nice arrangement
that is similar to those in modern hymnals.

This is the Sacred Harp version, sung at the 2012 
Golden Gate All-Day Singing in San Francisco.

If you aren't familiar with Sacred Harp: The first time through they are singing the solfege syllables using the old FA-SOL-LA-MI system. And yes, we always sing that loud, with no vibrato. Many of the chords are open 5ths (no 3rds, hollow-sounding), and the melody is in the tenor voice with a "treble" part as the highest women's voice. In some respects it resembles the music of the European Middle Ages. Some people find it harsh-sounding; to me, it's the kind of rugged, no-frills music that suited the New England colonists who created it, and the mountain folk who carried it west.

Finally, an Irish version of "Hind Horn," the ballad from
which this tune probably derived. They are at least cousins!

Jackson tells the amusing story of hearing this tune sung by a former missionary to China, who insisted it was original to the Chinese Christian community.("Some Factors," 366ff.) The simple minor pentatonic scale (MI SOL LA DO RE MI) of this tune in its basic form has certainly contributed to its longevity, and to its wide adoption.

The earliest appearance of this tune in print, however, still appears to be that found in William Walker's Southern Harmony.(Glover, 549) As was typical of the old colonial singing-school music, Walker's arrangement places the melody in the tenor voice; he added a bass part below and a "treble" above. The Sacred Harp version has an alto part, added in later years, to fill out a more typical voicing.

William "Singing Billy" Walker (1809-1875) was a Baptist song leader from Spartanburg, South Carolina. His Southern Harmony (1835) is one of the most important hymn publications in American history, because it preserved many of the melodies of the camp-meeting folk hymns at a time when the generation that created them was passing away. (Earlier publications of camp-meeting songs did not include the music.) One easy gauge of its importance is the fact that Southern Harmony was the first hymnal to pair John Newton's text "Amazing grace" with the Southern tune "New Britain," establishing what must be the most universally recognized contribution of American hymnody.(Eskew)


Glover, Raymond F. The Hymnal 1982 Companion. New York: Church Pension Fund, 1994.

Woolsey, Elijah. The Supernumerary, edited by George Coles. New York: Lane & Tippett, 1845. http://books.google.com/books?id=_N0QAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA81#v=onepage&q&f=false

Jackson, George Pullen. Spiritual Folk-Songs of Early America. New York: J.J. Augustin, 1937.

Eskew, Harry. Introduction to Southern Harmony (Online edition). Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Sources on Caleb Jarvis Taylor:

Redford, Albert Henry. The History of Methodism in Kentucky, volume 2, From the Conference of 1808 to the Conference of 1820. Nashville, Tennessee: Southern Methodist Publishing, 1870. http://books.google.com/books?id=D8gYAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA128#v=onepage&q&f=false

Fry, B. St. James. "The Early Camp-Meeting Song Writers." Methodist Quarterly Review, 4th series, 43:3 (Summer 1859), pp. 401-413. http://books.google.com/books?id=Q4dJAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA401#v=onepage&q&f=false

Steele, David Warren, and Richard H. Hulan. The Makers of the Sacred Harp. University of Illinois Press, 2010.

Hinde, Thomas S. "Religious and Missionary Intelligence, an appendix to Short Sketches of Revivals of Religion in the Western Country." Methodist Magazine volume 11 (1828), 189-192, 313-317. N.B. This article is signed "Theophilus Arminius," but the author identifies himself as the compiler of the Pilgrim Songster (1810), who is known to be Hinde.

The City Buzz (Cynthiana & Paris, Kentucky), number 71, 5 August 2011. http://www.thecitybuzz.net/files/City_Buzz_Edition_71_pdf.pdf

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