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The Poetry of Carols: I Wonder as I Wander

Christmas carols are poetry.

I Wonder as I Wander is one of my favorites. The melody is simple, haunting and so very beautiful, the lyrics pure and humble. What I love most about this song is its origins. It was culled from the repertoire of the Appalachian people by folklorist John Jacob Niles in the 1930’s. He first heard the song sung by a traveling evangelist named Annie Morgan. He describes her performance here:

“A girl had stepped out to the edge of the little platform attached to the automobile. She began to sing. Her clothes were unbelievably dirty and ragged, and she, too, was unwashed. Her ash-blond hair hung down in long skeins…. But, best of all, she was beautiful, and in her untutored way, she could sing. She smiled as she sang, smiled rather sadly, and sang only a single line of a song.”

He had her repeat the line again and again, memorizing it and developing it into the carol we know today. This song reminds me that, if we allow him to, God will use us to bless others no matter our situation, be it excess or lack.

I Wonder as I Wander

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God’s heaven, a star’s light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God’s Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

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