A Hymn | American Revolution War Song


    About the author

    Frank Moore
    Frank Moore

    Frank Moore was a journalist and Revolutionary historian. He published a number of books on the American Revolution during his career in the mid-19th century, including Songs and Ballads of the American Revolution, Diary of the American Revolution and The Patriot Preachers of the American Revolution.


      William Billings, the author of the subjoined hymn, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on the seventh of October, 1746. He is more celebrated, as the earliest native writer of music in America, than by his verses. He was zealous in the cause of liberty, and the patriotic ardor which pervaded his works, made them very popular with the colonists. The New England soldiers, who, during the war, were stationed in the Southern States, had many of his tunes by heart, and amused themselves by singing them in camp, to the delight of all who heard them.

      A Hymn

      LET tyrants shake their iron rod,
      And slavery clank her galling chains;
      We fear them not; we trust in God –
      New England’s God for ever reigns.

      Howe and Burgoyne, and Clinton, too,
      With Prescott and Cornwallis join’d;
      Together plot our overthrow,
      In one infernal league combin’d.

      When God inspir’d us for the fight,
      Their ranks were broke, their lines were forc’d;
      Their ships were shatter’d in our sight,
      Or swiftly driven from our coast.

      The foe comes on with haughty stride;
      Our troops advance with martial noise;
      Their veterans flee before our youth,
      And generals yield to beardless boys.

      What grateful offering shall we bring?
      What shall we render to the Lord ?
      Loud hallelujahs let us sing,
      And praise his name on every chord.

      1. This hymn was published in “Billings’ Singing Master’s Assistant,” a collection of church music in general use in New England, during the Revolution. In the introduction to this work, Billings says, “Dame Gamut’s sons have a strong propensity to mirth and cheerfulness, always delighting to frequent weddings and concerts, and some of them seem to be greatly pleased in warlike achievements, and though they carry no instruments of death or destruction, yet they are so, extremely animating* that they can cause even cowards to fight, and pusillanimity to perform wonders.”

      The music and words of another piece in the “Singing Master’s Assistant,” composed by Billings was entitled


      An Anthem from sundry scriptures.

      “Was not the day, was not the day,
      Was not the day dark, and gloomy.
      The enemy said, “let us draw a line,
      Even from York to Canada.”
      But praised be the Lord !
      But praised be the Lord !
      The snare is broken, and we are escaped !
      But praised be the Lord !

      But blessed be the Lord !
      The snare is broken, and we are escaped !
      Hark, hark, hear the adjuration,
      Cursed be the man that keepeth back his sword !
      Oh ! dismal ! oh ! horrible ! oh ! dismal.
      My bowels ! my bowels !
      I am pained at my very heart !
      My heart maketh a noise within me,
      For thou hast heard, oh my soul ! the alarm of war.”

      Billings died at Boston, September 26, 1800, aged fifty-four.

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