Onward Christian Soldiers

Something for the weekend.  Onward Christian Soldiers sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford.  The music was composed by Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan fame in 1871, with the words having been written in 1865 by Sabine-Baring-Gould.  It was popularized by the Salvation Army in America, being virtually their theme song.  When I have heard it, I have thought of this poem by Vachel Lindsay of Springfield, Illinois on the founder of the Salvation Army:

(Bass drum beaten loudly)

BOOTH  led boldly with his big bass drum—


(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)



The Saints smiled gravely and they said: “He’s come.”



(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)



Walking lepers followed, rank on rank,



Lurching bravoes from the ditches dank,



Drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale—



Minds still passion-ridden, soul-powers frail:—



Vermin-eaten saints with mouldy breath,



Unwashed legions with the ways of Death—



(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)






Every slum had sent its half-a-score


The round world over. (Booth had groaned for more.)



Every banner that the wide world flies



Bloomed with glory and transcendent dyes.



Big-voiced lasses made their banjos bang,



Tranced, fanatical, they shrieked and sang:—



“Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”



Hallelujah! It was queer to see



Bull-necked convicts with that land make free.



Loons with trumpets blowed a blare, blare, blare,



On, on upward thro’ the golden air!



(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)






(Bass drum slower and softer)

Booth died blind and still by Faith he trod,


Eyes still dazzled by the ways of God.



Booth led boldly, and he looked the chief,



Eagle countenance in sharp relief,



Beard a-flying, air of high command



Unabated in that holy land.





(Sweet flute music)

Jesus came from out the court-house door,        


Stretched his hands above the passing poor.



Booth saw not, but led his queer ones there



Round and round the mighty court-house square.



Yet in an instant all that blear review



Marched on spotless, clad in raiment new.



The lame were straightened, withered limbs uncurled



And blind eyes opened on a new, sweet world.





(Bass drum louder)

Drabs and vixens in a flash made whole!


Gone was the weasel-head, the snout, the jowl!



Sages and sibyls now, and athletes clean,



Rulers of empires and of forests green!





(Grand chorus of all instruments. Tambourines to the foreground)

The hosts were sandalled, and their wings were fire!


(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)



But their noise played havoc with the angel-choir



(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)



O, shout Salvation! It was good to see



Kings and Princes by the Lamb set free.



The banjos rattled and the tambourines



Jing-jing-jingled in the hands of Queens.





(Reverently sung, no instruments)

And when Booth halted by the curb for prayer        


He saw his Master thro’ the flag-filled air.



Christ came gently with a robe and crown



For Booth the soldier, while the throng knelt down.



He saw King Jesus. They were face to face,



And he knelt a-weeping in that holy place.



Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?






  1. I like Tennessee Ernie, all right, but really, let Mother Mahalia show you how it’s done. It makes one understand how the Greeks thought they heard the voice of Athena over the battlefield, where the image of the Valkyries came from, and why the Church celebrates Our Lady of Victory on the day of Lepanto.

    • Very nice Fabio!

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