Today’s post will be very short, as I have succumbed finally to the respiratory crud going around. But I do have a thing or two to say about this song, which I could not sing, physically or emotionally.
First, I am glad we have a chance to see some of the less cheerful, less hopeful spirituals – this more than any other song that I’ve encountered shows the realities and cruelty of slavery, and the sadness of all who died because of it.
But also, this is more evidence that the hymnal isn’t a book of songs to sing, it is a collection of music that speaks to our living tradition, some of which are preserved (I suspect) for historical purposes. This song speaks to the dark realities of slavery, which some Unitarians and Universalists fought against and some Unitarians and Universalists fought for. Ours is an ugly and complicated history around slavery, colonization, and race relations.
This song sits in our hymnal as a stark reminder.
No more auction block for me. No more, no more.
No more auction block for me, many thousand gone.
No more driver’s lash for me. No more, no more.
No more driver’s lash for me, many thousand gone.
No more peck of corn for me. No more, no more.
No more peck of corn for me, many thousand gone.
No more pint of salt for me. No more, no more.
No more pint of salt for me, many thousand gone.
But for god’s sake, unless you have a very particular context and very particular performers, don’t sing this. Let it speak without singing.
Illustration from Harper’s Weekly, July 1861.