When I Can Read My Titles Clear (Long Time Traveling)
DESCRIPTION: "When I can read my titles clear to mansions in the sky, I will bid farewell to every tear and wipe my weeping eye." Chorus: "I'm a long time traveling here below, I'm a long time traveling away from my home...." Other verses vary
AUTHOR: unknown (portions by Isaac Watts)
EARLIEST DATE: 1927 (recording, J. T. Allison's Sacred Harp Singers)
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (1 citation):
J. T. Allison's Sacred Harp Singers, "I'm A Long Time Travelling Away From Home" (Gennett 6255, 1927)
Daniels-Deason Sacred Harp Singers, "Primrose Hill" (Columbia 15323-D, 1928; on Babylon)
Denson Sacred Harp Singers, "The Ninety-Fifth" (Brunswick 287, rec. 1928)
Elder Golden P. Harris, "I'll Lead a Christian Life" (Melotone 12178, 1931; on Babylon)
Frank Proffitt, "I'm a Long Time Travelling Here Below" (on FProffitt01)
NOTES [212 words]: This song, or one of the same title, is said to have been one of Abraham Lincoln's favorites. The verses are so generic that it is really hard to call it one song; it's a family held together by the refrain "Been a long time traveling here below" and (often but not always) the mansions in the sky.
The first stanza is from a poem by Isaac Watts, "The Hopes of Heaven Our Support Under Trials on Earth," and reportedly published 1807 (see John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes), p. 1269). This shows up in several forms in the shape note books (e.g. with the tunes "Ninety-Fifth," "Primrose Hill," "Akers," and "Saints' Delight") -- but all these seem to be the Watts poem, which is not (to my ears at least) nearly as strong. It is noteworthy that, according to Julian, several editors saw fit to refashion the piece. - RBW
As far as I can tell from reading the Sacred Harp book [a demonstrably unreliable source - RBW], Watts seems to have composed all of the lyrics.
I've placed the Daniels-Deason and Elder Harris recordings here for want of a better place; they share lyrics but use different tunes. - PJS
For more on Isaac Watts, see the notes to "O God, Our Help in Ages Past." - RBW
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