Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Words: Unknown

Music: Unknown

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is an African-American spiritual from the 1870s. It was one of several included by black singer Harry Burleigh in a celebrated 1917 compilation.

The exact origin of this spiritual is unknown although, like many others, it became popular among plantation workers in the 19th century.

There’s a story that, in 1840, Wallis Willis, a slave of a Choctaw Indian, looked out over the cotton field he was tilling upon the Red River in the distance. It reminded him of the Mississippi and the plantation his master owned before moving to Doaksville, in Indian territory. Wallace expressed his longing by singing: ‘Swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home.’

The song probably first became popular in South Wales, where spirituals were sung in male voice choirs. Why it moved to the rugby sidelines is not certain – it may simply be that it’s a rousing tune. Some say it was a response to the number of black players entering the game, chanted by a predominantly white crowd.

The song was adopted by England rugby fans on March 19, 1988, during a Five Nations match between England and Ireland.

At halftime England were 0-3 down. After the third of a second-half hat-trick of great tries by Chris Oti, the supporters sang spontaneously in celebration. England stormed home to win the game 35-3, and the song became the team’s anthem.

Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home,
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home.

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see?
Coming for to carry me home,
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.

If you get there before I do,
Coming for to carry me home,
Tell all my friends I’m coming, too.
Coming for to carry me home.

I’m sometimes up and sometimes down,
Coming for to carry me home,
But still my soul feels heavenly bound,
Coming for to carry me home.

The brightest day that I can say,
Coming for to carry me home,
When Jesus washed my sins away,
Coming for to carry me home.

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