Columbus, 67 (Once I Had a Glorious View)

TITLE: Columbus, 67 (Once I Had a Glorious View)
AUTHOR: collected by Jesse Mercer
CATEGORY: Author Known
KEYWORDS: religious, Sacred Harp
Jesse Mercer’s Cluster of Spiritual Songs, 1810

I learned this one from Mark Bordeaux. Thanks.

Jesse Mercer (1769-1841)Jesse Mercer’s Cluster of Spiritual Songs (1810 was the most important hymn collection in the lower South from 1800 to 1835. Through its longevity—it passed through eleven editions—and its combination of classic English Evangelical hymns with rough-hewn American spiritual ballads and revival songs, Mercer’s Cluster became a classic of southern hymnody in the early republic. Mercer (1769-1841), a nationally known Baptist elder from Powelton, Georgia, published the first edition of The Cluster around 1800 as a collection of roughly 150 hymns and added a small supplement to the 1804 edition. 

No copies of these first two editions have survived. Mercer appended another supplement in 1810, bringing the total number of hymns in the third edition to 199. A further enlarged 1823 edition has been reprinted and interpreted in C. Ray Brewster’s The Cluster of Jesse Mercer (Macon, Ga.: Renaissance Press, 1983), the only previous book-length study of the hymnal.

Mercer scholar Kay Norton argues that the 1810 edition deserves special attention because it is the definitive source for the earliest stratum of Evangelical hymnody in the lower South and it served as textual “midwife” for later southern singing school tune books such as William Walker’s Southern Harmony and Musical Companion (New Haven, Conn.: Nathan Whiting, 1835) and B. F. White and E. J. King’s The Sacred Harp (Philadelphia: the authors, 1844).

The source material for “Columbus” on p. 67 of the Sacred Harp (often identified by the first line, “Once I Had a Glorious View”) is from the book of Job 23:1-10.

Then Job answered and said, Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning. Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.

Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me. There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge. Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

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Once I Had a Glorious View

Oh, once I had a glorious view
Of my redeeming Lord,
He said, “I’ll be a God to you,”
And I believed His word.
But now I have a deeper stroke
Than all my groanings are;
My God has me of late forsook;
He’s gone, I know not where.

Oh, what immortal joys I felt,
On that celestial day,
When my hard heart began to melt,
By love dissolved away!
By my complaint is bitter now,
For all my joys are gone;
I’ve strayed! I’m left! I know not how;
The light’s from me withdrawn.

Once I could joy the saints to meet,
To me they were most dear;
I then could stoop to wash their feet,
And shed a joyful tear;
But now I meet them as the rest,
And with them joyless stay;
My conversation’s spiritless,
Or else I’ve nought to say.

I once could mourn o’er dying men,
And longed their souls to win;
I travailed for their poor children,
And warned them of their sin;
But now my heart’s so careless grown,
Although they’re drowned in vice,
My bowels o’er them cease to yearn —
My tears have left mine eyes.

I forward go in duty’s way,
But can’t perceive Him there;
Then backward on the road I stray,
But cannot find Him there;
On the left hand, where He doth work,
Among the wicked crew,
And on the right I find Him not
Among the favored few.

What shall I do? Shall I lie down
And sink in deep despair?
Will He forever wear a frown,
Nor hear my feeble prayer?
No; He will put His strength in me,
He knows the way I’ve strolled,
And when I’m tried sufficiently
I shall come forth as gold.


  • The Cluster of Spiritual Songs, Divine Hymns, and Sacred Poems: Being Chiefly a Collection (Jesse Mercer) originally published 1823, 3rd edition by William W. Woodward, Philadelphis

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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