Chariot: (n) a two-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle used in ancient warfare and racing.
“Negro spiritual. “
It’s not exactly an oxymoron, but within the two words there seems to be a contradiction of purpose.
Yet a race of people who were beaten, subjugated, raped and sometimes nearly starved managed to get around a fire late at night when their persecutors had retired to the Big House, and come up with songs which we now display in our religious catalogues today.
- “Let My People Go”
- “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”
- And of course, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”
Even though the songs are melodic, harmonic and perhaps even rhythmic, they all carry a central theme: “Dear God, I hope they stop beating me and if they won’t, I hope you kill me soon.”
You can be sympathetic to their plight.
“Swing low, sweet chariot,
Comin’ for to carry me home…”
A pretty simple passage: “Since there’s no solution here on Earth, since the Massa has the whip and since my family can be sold at a moment’s notice, maybe it would be wise to begin Eternity really soon.”
Negro spiritual–a music that tells us where people find solace when other humans abandon and mistreat them.
It is soulful, it is seeking and it is sad.
I can’t listen to the song about the chariot without realizing that my ancestors made the singer want to die.