So this is weird.
I know a verse of this song so well that when I started singing this morning and saw it wasn’t there, I got annoyed. It’s the one that goes
When I was a sinner, I prayed both night and day
I asked the Lord to help me, and he showed me the way
Yet when I looked, well, pretty much everywhere, that verse isn’t a real verse to this song. It shows up in some campfire song compilations, but nobody in the hymnody business thinks that is real.
What they do think is real is the lyrics below, which we carry unabridged:
Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and ev’rywhere;
go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!
While shepherds kept their watching o’er silent flocks by night,
behold throughout the heavens there shone a holy light.
The shepherds feared and trembled when lo! above the earth rang out
the angel chorus that hailed the baby’s birth.
Down in a lowly manger the humble babe was born,
and God sent us salvation that blessed Christmas morn.
What we know about this carol is that it predates 1865 but was first written down then by John Wesley, Jr. who, like others (including Unitarian minister and fierce abolitionist Thomas Wentworth Higginson) collected the rich music of the enslaved peoples in the south.
I will admit this isn’t one of my favorites, but it certainly has its place in our canon.
I also have to admit that I kinda wrote another chorus to it, just for today:
Go tell it on the mountain,
over the Sound and ’round the bend
Go tell it on the mountain
That Kimberley’s a reverend.
Okay, it doesn’t quite scan, but you get the picture…