A correspondent at Port Royal, S. C., gives an interesting account of the religious meetings of negroes, in which singing is the favorite exercise. They have a great variety of sacred songs, which they sing and shout at the top of their voices, and never grow weary. A favorite melody is, “Roll, Jordan, roll:”

“Little children sitting on the tree of life,
To hear when Jordan roll;
O, roll, Jordon, roll; roll, Jordan, roll:
We march the angel march; O, march the angel
On! my soul is rising heavenward, to hear whtn
Jordan roll.
O my brother! sitting on the tree of life,
To hear when Jordan roll, &c.
Sister Mary sitting on the tree of life,
To hear when Jordan roll, &c.

The verses vary only in the recitative. If Mr. Jones is a visitor, he will hear, “Mr. Jones is sitting on the tree of life.” All of the persons present are introduced to the tree of life–Nancy, James, and Sancho. There is no pause; before the last roll is ended, the one giving the recitative places another brother or sister on the tree, and then Jordan rolls again. It is a continuous refrain, till all have had their turn upon the tree.

A weird plantation refrain, in a minor key, is, “Down in the Lonesome Valley.” This has also a recitative and chorus:

“My sister, don’t you want to get religion?
Go down in the lonesome valley,
Go down in the lonesome valley,
Go down in the lonesome valley, my Lord,
To meet my Jesus there.”

As the song goes on the enthusiasm rises. They sing louder and stronger. The one giving the recitative leads off with more vigor, and the chorus rolls with an increasing volume. They beat time at first with their feet, then with their hands. William cannot sit still. He rises, begins a shuffle with his feet, jerking his arms. Ann, a short, thick-set, pure-blooded black woman, wearing a checked gingham dress, and an apron which was once a window curtain, can no longer keep her seat. She claps her hands, makes a short, quick jerk of her body on the unaccented part of the measure, keeping exact time. Catharine and Sancho catch the inspiration. We push the centre table aside to give them room. They go round in a circle, singing, shuffling, jerking, shouting louder and louder. Those upon the seats respond more vigorously, keeping time with feet and hands. William seems in a trance; his eyes are fixed, yet he goes on into a double shuffle. Every joint in his body seems to be hung on wires. Feet, legs, arms, head, body, jerk like a dancing dandy Jack. Sancho enters into the praise with his whole heart, clasping his hands, looking upward and outward upon the crowd as if they were his children, and he a patriarch. His countenance beams with joy. He is all but carried away with the excitement of the moment. So it goes on till nature is exhausted. When the meeting breaks up, the singers go through the ceremony of shaking hands all round, keeping time to the tune, “There’s a meeting here to-night.”

Originally posted 2008-11-06 16:43:27.

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I'm a lover of God and His Son Jesus Christ. In addition I love to make yesterday's words come alive through the republishing of good and profitable books of old. The Civil War project is an ongoing labor of love. - Karan
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