(This score available as
a MIDI file)
Pennywhistle notation and Dulcimer tab for this song is also available
The Handcart Song Ye Saints who dwell on Europe's shore, Prepare yourselves for many more To leave behind your native lands For sure God's judgements are at hand. For you must cross the raging main before the promised land you gain, then with the faithful make a start to cross the plains with your handcart. cho: For some must push and some must pull, As we go marching up the hill. For merrily on our way we go, Until we reach the valley-O The land that boasts of so much light We know they're all as dark as night Where poor men toil and want for bread and rich men's dogs are better fed. The land that boasts of liberty You ne'er again would wish to see When you from England make a start To cross the plains in your handcart. But some will say it is too bad, the saints upon the foot to pad, And more than that, to pull a load, As they go marching o'er the road. But then we say it is the plan, To gather up the best of men, And women too, for none but they Will ever travel in this way. As o'er the road the carts were pulled, 'Twould very much surprise the world To see the old and feeble dame Thus lend a hand to pull the same And maidens fair will dance and sing, Young men more happy than a king, And children too will laugh and play, Their strength increasing day by day. And long before the valley's gained, We will be met upon the plains With music sweet and friends so dear And fresh supplies our hearts to cheer. And then with music and with song How cheerfully we'll march along And thank the day we made a start To cross the plains with our handcart. When you get there among the rest, Obedient be and you'll be blessed, and in God's chambers be shut in While judgements cleanse the earth from sin. For we do know it will be so; God's servant spoke it long ago. We say it is high time to start To cross the plains with our handcart. note: The tune is set to a Scottish dance tune called the Cumberland Reel. A colleague of mine who teaches Scottish Country Dance (to one of my daughters) supplied the name of the tune when I heard it at the class. I found the music on the Ceolas web site. Note that only the first part of the tune was used for the song. Each verse repeats the melody twice and the chorus repeats it once more. There were ten handcart companies in all, from 1856 to 1860. Although food was always in short supply, eight of these companies came through with no more loss of life than a comparable wagon company would, and less in some instances. They were also said to be as fast or faster than any other means of crossing the plains - apparently humans can pull handcarts faster than oxen can pull wagons. The other two handcart companies, called the Martin and Willy after their captains, left late (August/September) from Iowa, and were caught in early winter storms in Wyoming, suffering much loss of life and being rescued heroically era as far as immigration to Utah goes. In 1997 a 150 year anniversary reenactment of the pioneer journey was staged, where a company of wagons and a company of handcarts followed the route as closely as possible from Florence (Winter Quarters), Nebraska to Salt Lake City, Utah. They left in April and arrived in SLC July 22nd. People could come and go as they pleased, but many made the whole trip. Those who desired were allowed to march in the Pioneer Day parade on July 24th. I was at the parade with my family, and believe me, to see those folks coming up the street (they were last in the parade), both wagons and handcarts, was really something. We gave them a standing ovation which probably lasted 20 minutes or more as they passed. JW There's a modern version of which I can only remember the first verse (there might not be any more): When pioneers went to the west, with courage strong they faced the test They pushed their handcarts all day long And as they pushed they sang this song: JW oct97
Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!