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      Off to California

            Music from the Gold Rush Era

Promised Land

There are a number of old gospel hymns in The Sacred Harp collection with interchangeable verses and this is one of them.  We selected those that seemed to contribute to the metaphor of the gold country as a promised land, borrowing especially from “New Jordan,” “Sweet Prospect” and “The Promised Land.”  The Sacred Harp was an essential part of the shape note singing tradition of the deep South.  It was first published in 1844.  Our verse lyrics are attributed to Samuel Stennet, 1787.  None of us can recall how we learned the chorus and melody, however.  We all were raised in different religious traditions and have many years of traditional music under our belts.  The first time we tried to sing this song together, we instinctively knew the melody and found our parts.  Since older people in our audiences often sing along, we suspect it exists in now extinct church hymnals.

Lyrics -- Hear it

Lead vocal, first and third verses and chorus:  Alan
Lead vocal, second and fourth verses, harmony on chorus:  Andy
Harmony vocal:  Dorothy

On Jordan's stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land
Where my possessions lie
I am bound for the promised land
Bound for the promised land
Oh who will come and go with me
I am bound for the promised land  

Oh, the transporting rapturous scene
That rises to my eyes
Sweet fields arrayed in living green
And rivers of delight  

No chilling wind nor poisonous breath
Can reach that healthful shore
There sickness, sorrow, pain and death
Are felt and feared no more  

Filled with delight my raptured soul
Would hear no longer stay
While Jordan’s waves around me roll
Fearless I’d launch away


from the CD
Hard Times in the Promised Land

Hard Times in the Promised Land CD Available at CDBaby