Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see

Tune: SWING LOW
Published in 62 hymnals

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Audio files: MIDI

Full Text

Refrain:
Swing low, sweet chariot,
coming for to carry me home.
Swing low, sweet chariot,
coming for to carry me home.

1 I looked over Jordan, and what did I see
coming for to carry me home?
A band of angels coming after me,
coming for to carry me home. O, [Refrain]

2 If you get there before I do,
coming for to carry me home,
tell all my friends I’m coming too,
coming for to carry me home. O, [Refrain]

3 The brightest day that ever I saw,
coming for to carry me home,
when Jesus washed my sins away,
coming for to carry me home. O, [Refrain]

4 I’m sometimes up and sometimes down,
coming for to carry me home,
but still my soul feels heavenly bound,
coming for to carry me home. O, [Refrain]

Source: Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #825

Notes

This is one of the best-known African American spirituals in Christian history. Its source is the oral tradition of African Americans, but the concerts of the Fisk Jubilee Singers (PHH 476) and the Hampton Singers brought "Swing Low" to the attention of white audiences. J. B. T. Marsh includes an early version of text and tune in his The Story of the Jubilee Singers, with their Songs (1876 ed.).

Considered by Erik Routley (PHH 31) to be one of the "archetypal" African American spirituals, "Swing Low" welcomes death as the occasion "to carry me home" to glory. The text incorporates the imagery of “Jordan” and "chariot" from the Old Testament narratives of Elijah's ascent into heaven (2 Kings 2). In spite of the "ups" and "downs" of earthly life (st. 3), it is comforting for Christians to know with certainty that their final destination is the glory of a new heaven and earth.

Liturgical Use:
Advent; times of hardship; with preaching on 2 Kings 2 or on eschatological topics.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune

SWING LOW

A pentatonic melody, SWING LOW has the musical structure of "call and response" (solo and chorus) which is common in the rote practices associated with African American spirituals. Use a vocal soloist or a small group of voices for the marked unison segments and have the entire congregation sing the…

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Instances

Instances (13)TextImageAudioScoreFlexscore
African American Heritage Hymnal #539Image
Chalice Hymnal #643Text
Glory to God: the Presbyterian Hymnal #825TextImageAudio
Lead Me, Guide Me (2nd ed.) #704
Lift Every Voice and Sing II: an African American hymnal #18Text
Lift Up Your Hearts: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs #469ImageFlexscore
Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #617TextImageAudioScore
Songs for Life #197Text
The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Bicentennial Hymnal #586
The Cyber Hymnal #6434TextAudioScore
The United Methodist Hymnal #703TextImage
Worship and Rejoice #520TextImageAudioScore
Worship in Song: A Friends Hymnal #249