December 2, 2011

No more shall they in bondage toil

On December 2, 1861, the New York Tribune published the words to a song which had been overheard by escaped enslaved people at Fortress Monroe in Virginia (recently named a National Park unit). It soon became well-known among both white and black Americans. The newspaper gave it the title "Let My People Go: A Song of the 'Contrabands,'" though it is also called "Go Down, Moses":

When Israel was in Egypt's land,
               O let my people go!
Oppressed so hard they could not stand,
               O let my people go!

Chorus:  O go down, Moses,
               Away down in Egypt's land;
               And tell King Pharaoh
               To let my people go!

Thus saith the Lord bold Moses said,
               O let my people go!
If not, I'll smite your first-born dead,
               O let my people go!

No more shall they in bondage toil,
               O let my people go!
Let them come out with Egypt's spoil,
               O let my people go!

Then Israel out of Egypt came
               O let my people go!
And left the proud oppressive land,
               O let my people go!

O 'twas a dark and dismal night,
               O let my people go!
When Moses led the Israelites,
               O let my people go!

'Twas good old Moses, and Aaron, too,
               O let my people go!
'Twas they that led the armies through,
               O let my people go!

The Lord told Moses what to do,
               O let my people go!
To lead the children of Israel through,
               O let my people go!

O come along, Moses, you'll not get lost,
               O let my people go!
Stretch out your rod and come across,
               O let my people go!

As Israel stood by the water side,
               O let my people go!
At the command of God it did divide,
               O let my people go!

When they had reached the other shore,
               O let my people go!
They sang a song of triumph o'er,
               O let my people go!

Pharaoh said he would go across,
               O let my people go!
But Pharaoh and his host were lost,
               O let my people go!

O Moses, the cloud shall cleave the way,
               O let my people go!
A fire by night, a shade by day,
               O let my people go!

You'll not get lost in the wilderness,
               O let my people go!
With a lighted candle in your breast,
               O let my people go!

Jordan shall stand up like a wall,
               O let my people go!
And the walls of Jericho shall fall,
               O let my people go!

Your foe shall not before you stand,
               O let my people go!
And you'll possess fair Canaan's land,
               O let my people go!

'Twas just about in harvest time,
               O let my people go!
When Joshua led his host Divine,
               O let my people go!

O let us all from bondage flee,
               O let my people go!
And let us all in Christ be free,
               O let my people go!

We need not always weep and mourn,
               O let my people go!
And wear these Slavery chains forlorn,
               O let my people go!

This world's a wilderness of woe,
               O let my people go!
O let us on to Canaan go,
               O let my people go!

What a beautiful morning that will be!
               O let my people go!
When time breaks up in eternity,
               O let my people go!

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