Alas And Did My Savior Bleed
DESCRIPTION: "Alas and did my savior bleed, And did my Sovereign die, Would he devote that sacred head For such a worm as I? Was it for crimes that I had done He groaned upon the tree?" The singer lists the faults of humanity and says how great is his debt to Christ
AUTHOR: Words: Isaac Watts (1674-1748) / Tune: Hugh WIlson (Source: cyberhymnal.org)
EARLIEST DATE: 1707 (Watts, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, first edition. Source: Julian)
KEYWORDS: religious nonballad Jesus
FOUND IN: US(Ap,SE)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
High, p. 4, "Did My Savior Bleed" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Benjamin Franklin White, E. J. King, et al., Original Sacred Harp (Atlanta, 1911 ("Digitized by Google") [correction and enlargement of 1869 edition copyright J. S. James], p. 290, "Victoria" ("Alas! And did my Saviour bleed?") (1 text, 1 tune)
Southeast Alabama and Florida Union Sacred Harp Singing Convention, "Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed" (on USFlorida01)
cf. "Helen of Kirconnell" (tune)
NOTES [391 words]: Julian, p. 34, reports, that "At a very early date it passed into common use outside the religious body with which Watts was associated. It is found in many modern collections in G. Brit., but its most extensive use is in America. Usually the second stanza, marked in the original to be left out in singing if desired, is omitted.... A slightly altered version of this hymn, with the omission of st[anza] ii., was rendered into Latin by Rev. R. Bingham, as 'Anne fundens sanguinem....'"
McKim, p. 73, observes that a very common change is to alter the last phrase of stanza 1, which in Watts's original read "for such a worm as I" (reminiscent of Psalm 22) to "for sinners such as I" (which, aside from making the singer feel less, well, worm-like, also made it resemble 1 Timothy 1:15).
Reynolds, p. 27, says that Watts's stanza five is also usually omitted, and that the other verses are often fiddled with as well. Reynolds, p. 28, says the usual tune goes by the names Avon, Martyrdom, Fenwick, Drumclog, Inveress, and All Saints. There was once litigation over its ownership, but it probably derives ultimately from "Helen of Kirconnell" (Hugh Wilson, who fitted it, said it was an "Old Scottish Melody" which he had harmonized; McKim, p. 73). One Ralph E. Hudson (1843-1901) later wrote another tune (called, not surprisingly, "Hudson"), and added a chorus; I do not know how widespread this version is. Reynolds, p. 342, says that Hudson fought in the American Civil War as a young man and went on to be a musician and Methodist Episcopal preacher.
Reynolds, p. 465, says that Hugh Wilson, who (at minimum) fitted the common tune, was born in Fenwick, Scotland, in 1766, and came from a family of shoemakers, but studied music and mathematics when he could. He eventually calculator, psalm-leader, and part-time tutor, and died in Duntocher, Scotland, in 1824. - RBW
It is common for a hymn to have a chorus added to go with a particular tune (see Richard M. Raichelson, Black Religious Folksong: A Study in Generic and Social Change (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania (Unpublished dissertation- Ph.D.), 1975 (available online by ProQuest)), p. 250). The USFlorida01 version uses the tune "Victoria" and adds the chorus ("I have but one more river to cross"(3x) "And then I'll be at rest"), as printed in Original Sacred Harp. - BS
Last updated in version 4.2
- Julian: John Julian, editor, A Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892; second edition 1907 (I use the 1957 Dover edition in two volumes)
- McKim: LindaJo H. McKim, Presbyterian Hymnal Companion, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993
- Reynolds: William Reynolds, Companion to Baptist Hymnal, Broadman Press, 1976
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