Hear the Lambs a-Crying
DESCRIPTION: Chorus: "Hear the lambs a-crying (x3), O Shepherd, feed my sheep." Verses: Jesus asks Peter "'feed my sheep.'" Jesus is crucified and "hangs three hours in dreadful pain." The singer wants to leave "this vain world" and follows Jesus's road.
EARLIEST DATE: 1874 (Dett)
KEYWORDS: Bible nonballad religious floatingverses Jesus sheep
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
Dett, pp. 224-225, "Hear de Lambs a-Cryin'" (1 text, 1 tune; pp. 210-211 in the 1874 edition)
ADDITIONAL: John W. Work, American Negro Songs (New York: Crown Publishers, 1940 (republished by Mineola: Dover Publications, 1998)), p. 114, "You Hear the Lambs a-Crying" (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. "The Blood-Stained Banders" (chorus lines)
NOTES: In the verses, every alternate line is "O shepherd, feed my sheep."
Dett includes the floater "If I had wings like Noah's dove, I'd fly away to the heavens above."
The Biblical reference is John 21:17: "He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep" (King James). - BS
The incident the song alludes to is a good deal more complicated than the above quote above shows. Jesus twice asks if Peter loves him with (Christian) love (using the verb "agapao") and Peter answers that he feels ordinary love ("phileo") toward Peter. Then, the third time, cited above, Jesus asks if Peter loves ("phileo") him, and thus induces Peter to say that he loves Jesus ("agapao"). But none of this is evident in the King James translation. Also, the better Greek manuscripts say Peter was son of John, not son of Jonas (see, e.g., NRSV. It is not a translational variant, though; five of the six oldest manuscripts read "John," but almost all manuscripts after the seventh century read "Jonah/Jonas"). Also, Jesus was on the cross for six hours, not three hours -- from the third hour to the ninth hour of the day; see Mark 15:25, 34. Three hours was the period there was said to be darkness on the land (Mark 15:33). - RBW
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