Services with Variants

(from Appalachia)


I wonder as I wander

Out under the sky

Why Jesus, my Jesus,

Did come down to die


For poor on’ry people

Like you and like I

I wonder as I wander

Out under the sky


And then the story can begin in

Earnest—the grammar’s bad:

What does that really matter,


When the bias is for long and

Almost painful, loving notes

Wrought in the words to send


Them over; all the o sounds and

The is like convict souls, once

Held then let go like winged


Enchantment, soar above the

Planet in the room, to wave

Like smoke around the beams


Above the Sunday evening

Gathering, like convicts bound

Whose chains are broken with


No expectation, words and

Notes released like birds once

Wrapped by keepers’ hands—


In flight now to know no other

Mission than the erring sky

And song of wonder-wandering



“I Wonder as I Wander” (Appalachia)

Words and Music collected by John Jacob Niles

Collected by John Jacob Niles in Murphy, [North Carolina,] in July 1933 from a young traveling evangelist Annie Morgan.  According to Niles, he asked her to sing the song repeatedly until he had memorized it. It was published in his 1934 Songs of the Hill-Folk.


and “on’ry” is ornery, which is a good word