Wasn’t That a Wide River

Traditional Spiritual

“Old Satan ain’t nothin’ but a snake in the grass, One more river to cross….”

Noah Brooks

Like many great spirituals, “Wasn’t That a Wide River” is about the journey to paradise across the river Jordan. But for African-Americans of the time, the river Jordan carried a double meaning: it could refer to the entry into Heaven by one of the faithful or a slave’s escape across the Ohio River, the boundary that separated slave states from the free north.

In Reunion it’s sung by the company in spontaneous celebration at the news of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, accompanied by the testimony of a slave in the Deep South who heard of the proclamation from a northern soldier.

Lyrics

Oh, wasn’t that a wide river?
That river of Jordan, Lord,
Wide river!
There’s one more river to cross!
 
Oh, the river of Jordan is so wide,
One more river to cross!
I don’t know how to get on the other side,
One more river to cross!
 
Oh, wasn’t that a wide river?
That river of Jordan, Lord,
Wide river!
There’s one more river to cross!
 
Old Satan ain’t nothin’ but a snake in the grass,
One more river to cross!
If you ain’t might careful, he will hold you fast!
One more river to cross!
 
Oh, wasn’t that a wide river?
That river of Jordan, Lord,
Wide river!
There’s one more river to cross!

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