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Idumea

[ Roud 6678 ; Ballad Index LoF125 ; Charles Wesley, A. Davidson]

The Watersons sang the Sacred Harp hymn Idumea in 1977 on their album Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy. This recording was also included in the 1990 CD reissue of Frost and Fire, in 2003 on The Definitive Collection and on the Topic CD sampler The Season Round. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

The words of this beauty are by Charles Wesley ( 1707-88) who wrote more than 6,500 hymns. To our discredit it early faded out of English hymnals, but it was kept alive in the hymnbooks used on the American frontier. The Watersons' tune, which is one of several used for the ballad of Lord Thomas and Fair Ellinder, is claimed by Ananias Davisson, compiler of the Kentucky Harmony (1815). Subsequently, Wesley's words set to Davisson's tune appeared in several influential hymnbooks, notably Southern Harmony (1835) and Christian Harmony (1866). To this day it remains one of the best-favoured hymns in remoter settlements of the upland Southern states of America.

The Young Tradition sang Idumea in 1968 on their last LP, Galleries. They also sang it on November 17, 1968 at their concert at Oberlin College, Ohio, that was published in 2013 on their Fledg'ling CD Oberlin 1968. Heather Wood commented in the sleeve notes:

An American Sacred Harp hymn. We were taught several of these by some devotees in Washington, D.C. They are also known as shape-note hymns because the music was written out with triangles, squares etc., instead of the usual oval chrotchets and quavers, to enable the musically illiterate to sightread easily.

Frankie Armstrong sang Idumea in 2000 on her Fellside CD The Garden of Love. The liner notes commented:

A shape note hymn with words by Charles Wesley. Frankie says: “Because there is no one voice carrying ‘the tune’, the sound becomes a tonality. Singing these songs, I feel simultaneously myself and taken up in a larger whole.” Incidentally, Idumea is the Latin name for the land of the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, who were the target of a good deal of ferocious Old Testament prophesying.

Shirley Collins and several other singers sang Idumæa in 2006 on Current 93's album Black Ships Ate the Sky.

Lady Maisery sang Idumea at the Royal Oak Lewes on October 27, 2011 as can be seen on this YouTube video:

Andy Turner sang Idumea as the April 12, 2014 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

Lyrics

The Watersons sing IdumeaThe Young Tradition sing Idumea

And am I born to die
To lay this body down
And as my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown

And am I born to die
To lay this body down
𝄆 And as my trembling spirit fly
Into a world unknown 𝄇

A land of deepest shade
Unpierced by human thought
The dreary regions of the dead
Where all things are forgot

A land of deepest shade
Unpierced by human thought
𝄆 The dreary regions of the dead
Where all things are forgot 𝄇

Soon as from Earth I go
What will become of me
Eternal happiness or woe
Must then my fortune be

Soon as from Earth I go
What will become of me
𝄆 Eternal happiness or woe
Must then my fortune be 𝄇

Waked by the trumpet's sound
I from my grave shall rise
And see the judge with glory crowned
And see the flaming skies

Waked by the trumpet's sound
I from my grave shall rise
𝄆 To see the judge with glory crowned
And see the flaming skies 𝄇

Acknowledgements

Transcribed from the singing of the Watersons by Garry Gillard.