Babylon Is Fallen (I)
DESCRIPTION: Chorus: "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, is fallen! Babylon is fallen, to rise no more!" Verses: "Hail the day so long expected." Babylonians cry, trade and traffic die, all in one day. Saints, throngs, elders shout "hallelujah," "the loud and long amen"
EARLIEST DATE: 1859 (_The Hesperian Harp_, according to Jackson; see notes); 1813 (see notes)
KEYWORDS: floatingverses nonballad religious Bible Jesus
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Dett, p. 2, "Babylon's Fallin'" (1 text, 1 tune; pp. 248-249 in the 1874 edition)
ADDITIONAL: William Hauser, The Hesperian Harp (Philadelphia: S.C. Collins, 1874 ("Digitized by Internet Archive")), p. 291, "Babylon Is Fallen" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES [786 words]: The Biblical prophecies of Babylon's fall are fulfilled in Daniel 5:30-31.
The description follows Hauser. Dett replaces Hauser's verses with two floaters: "Oh, Jesus tell you once before... To go in peace an' sin no more" and "If you get dere before I do, Tell all my friends I'm comin' too." The form of Dett's verse is also changed and follows a familiar Black call and response format. Dett's verse is a couplet with "Babylon's fallin', to rise no more" after each couplet line. While these changes may be the "folk process" in action, changes like these were sometimes introduced by Black hymn writers and hymnal printers (see, for example, Portia K. Maultsby, "Music of Northern Independent Black Churches during the Ante-Bellum Period" in Ethnomusicology, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Sep 1975 (available online by JSTOR)), pp. 413-414, citing the work of Richard Allen, early in the nineteenth century). The difference between the Hauser and Dett versions illustrates the structural difference Maultsby defines between white and Black Protestant hymns: "Although exceptions may be found, the most common textual structure found in [white] hymns consists of four different lines of text: a, b, c, and d. On the other hand, textual structures common to [Black] spiritual texts include the alternation of different lines of text with recurring lines of text (a b c b and a b a c), three repeated lines of text followed by a different line of text (a a a b), and the alternation of a recurring line of text with another recurring line of text (a b a b). The use of refrain lines as found in the above textual structures allowed for continuous participation of all congregational members in the singing of spirituals."
Maultsby writes that [white] hymn structure has four different lines of text (a, b, c, d). I take that not to be referring to rhyme, but to non-repetitive lines. For example, in John Wesley's Hymn Book of the United Methodist Free Churches (London: William Reed, 1861 ("Digitized by Google")): of Hymns 1 through 28 the 26 by Charles Wesley are all rhymed; the remaining 2, by Isaac Watts and Samuel Wesley Sr also rhyme; after that, as far as I can tell, the book is filled with rhyming hymns. Maultsby's point is not about rhyming but that there are no refrain lines, no repeated lines, and no choruses.
Jackson, #226 p. 137, "Babylon Is Fallen": "The Shakers enjoyed the song as early as 1813 (see their Millenial Praises, Hancock, Mass., p. 50)" (George Pullin Jackson, Another Sheaf of White Spirituals (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1952)). Hauser's 1848 preface to the 1874 edition of The Hesperian Harp still describes that 1874 edition as to the number of pages; my point is that the 1859 early date I have from Jackson should probably be 1848. Incidentally, Jackson has the treble and alto tune from Hauser, as well as the chorus and first two verses. - BS
Re "The Biblical prophecies of Babylon's fall are fulfilled in Daniel 5:30-31." In fact, Daniel was written in the time of the Maccabees, four hundred years after Babylon fell, and is almost completely wrong in its history -- except when it gets to the Maccabean era. Insofar as the Hebrew Bible has a genuine reference to the fall of Babylon, it's in 2 Chron. 36:22-23=Ezra 1:1-3, where Cyrus King of Persia permits the Jews to return home.
In fact the events described in Daniel do not describe a fall of Babylon "to rise no more"; the city continued to be important until after the time of Alexander the Great -- Seleucus I, founder of the Seleucid Empire, made it his first capital. It's just that it was no longer the chief city *of the Babylonian Empire.* A reference to Babylon not rising any more almost has to date from after 100 B.C.E. -- the Roman period, when the Seleucid Empire decayed and Babylon finally was deserted. Instead, the reference in the song is almost certainly to Revelation 14:8, which in the King James Bible reads "And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." In this instance, "Babylon" is a cipher for Rome, so that the chronology works.
What's more, the version I've heard of this song has an additional verse that is explicitly Christian: "Blow the trumpet in Mount Zion, Christ shall come a second time, Ruling with a rod of iron All who now as foes combine. Babel's garment we've rejected And her fellowship is o'er, Babylon is fallen...." Again the passage is based on the Revelation to John, in this case 2:27: "And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father." - RBW
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