I Danced in the Morning....

I am looking for an analysis of the text of the hymn with the first line of: "I Danced in the Morning." Especially problematic to clergy is the verse containing the words "...the devil on his back." I believe I understand the references, but I would love to have something to back up my understanding, or, if I have missed it, to help me understand the text better when I present the hymn for approval.

Thank you,


I danced in the morning...

I've seen it in hymnals where it was emended (bowdlerized?) to "it's hard to dance with the whole world on your back"; the reference is to Jesus carrying the weight of the whole world's sin on the cross (and bearing it far away), though none of the four texts associated with the ten instances in the Hymnary database shows this variant. One may argue which version of the line would be theologically preferable, but I don't think I see a solid reason for rejecting either one.

Sydney Carter took the tune from a Shaker source, which I suppose some might find objectionable, but I would gently beg to differ with such an objection. The text is related to the anonymous English carol Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day; to what extent cognate, derivative, or merely allusive, I am not sure. Certainly the text of that carol, with its pejorative use of "the Jews", would be found less acceptable than Carter's song by most clergy.

The fact that the song has appeared in prominent Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, and non-denominational (Hope Pub. Co.) hymnals suggests that whatever the theological objections to that line about "the devil" might be, they are not insurmountable barriers to its acceptance by many experts of a variety of theological positions.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.