January 31

“Angel Band”: With Lyrics From An 18th Century Poem


"Angel Band": With Lyrics From An 18th Century Poem 1

The Song In Brief

A gospel music song, “Angel Band” contains lyrics that originated from an 18th-century poem written in common meter pattern.  Originally, the poem was titled as “My Latest Sun is Sinking Fast” which is also the first line of the first stanza. Jefferson Hascall wrote the wordings which are sometimes found in hymnals as Haskell. The tune behind the lyrics came from J.W. Dadmun’s concept and this was recorded in his tune book called The Melodeon published in 1860. The words could be easily sung to many hymnal tunes since these were written in common meter. The tune which the lyrics became universally associated with though was composed by William Batchelder Bradbury. This was published in 1862 on Bradbury’s Golden Shower of S.S Melodies. Bradbury titled his song “The Land of Beulah”.

“Angel Band” started to be widely accepted in folk traditions and published forms in the 19th century. Many artists began recording it too. Among the song’s notable covers included those of the Stanley Brothers, Emmylou Harris, and the Monkees. Also, the song was included on the soundtrack album of the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? with the Stanley Brothers’ version. Below is a video of the divine ensemble giving out a harmonious rendition of the gospel song.

Immersing on the Lyrics

Generally, the lyrics speak about death and its different representations. The first stanza, for example, identifies as the culmination of our earthly journey. The second line likens death with the crossing of Jordan River. In the third section, death is portrayed as gaining the heavenly home. Finally, the last verse emphasizes death being borne to Jesus. In the chorus, the narrator asks that the angels will bear our souls to the Lord at death.

My latest sun is sinking fast, my race is nearly run
My strongest trials now are past, my triumph has begun
Oh, come angel band, come and around me, stand
Oh, bear me away on your snow white wings
To my immortal home
Oh, bear me away on your snow white wings
To my immortal home

Oh, bear my longing heart to Him
Who bled and died for me
Whose blood now cleanses from all sin
And gives me victory
Oh, come angel band, come and around me, stand
Oh, bear me away on your snow white wings
To my immortal home
Oh, bear me away on your snow white wings
To my immortal home

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Emmylou Harris, J.W. Dadmun, Jefferson Hascall, Monkees, The Stanley Brothers

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