STLT#239, Go Tell It on the Mountain

So this is weird.

I know a verse of this song so well that when I started singing this morning and saw it wasn’t there, I got annoyed. It’s the one that goes

When I was a sinner, I prayed both night and day
I asked the Lord to help me, and he showed me the way

Yet when I looked, well, pretty much everywhere, that verse isn’t a real verse to this song.  It shows up in some campfire song compilations, but nobody in the hymnody business thinks that is real.

What they do think is real is the lyrics below, which we carry unabridged:

(Chorus)
Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and ev’rywhere;
go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!

While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night,
behold throughout the heavens there shone a holy light.

(Chorus)

The shepherds feared and trembled when lo! above the earth rang out
the angel chorus that hailed the baby’s birth.

(Chorus)

Down in a lowly manger the humble babe was born,
and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.

(Chorus)

What we know about this carol is that it predates 1865 but was first written down then by John Wesley, Jr. who, like others (including Unitarian minister and fierce abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson) collected the rich music of the enslaved peoples in the south.

I will admit this isn’t one of my favorites, but it certainly has its place in our canon.

I also have to admit that I kinda wrote another chorus to it, just for today:

Go tell it on the mountain,
over the Sound and ’round the bend
Go tell it on the mountain
That Kimberley’s a reverend.

Okay, it doesn’t quite scan, but you get the picture…

One Comment

  1. This was the all-time favorite Christmas song of a beloved member of our congregation, a woman who had made a lot of bad choices in her life AND had also had a lot of tragedy (much of it unrelated to the bad choices). Somewhere in the course of her life in our UU congregation she found God and a peaceful heart, and I loved her (although she was something of an energy sink). I ALWAYS included it either on the Sunday before Christmas or on Christmas Eve, and I always caught her joyful eye when we belted out the first words, “Go tell it on the mountain!” Thus, I love this song!

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