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“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks”

Sing Carrie!’ Laura said hurriedly. So Carrie began to sing, then Mary’s sweet soprano came in… — The Long Winter, Chapter 21, “The Hard Winter”

The words to “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” were written in 1787 by Samuel Stennett and first published in Selection of Hymns,a hymnal compiled by the Baptist editor John Rippon. The music is “Varnia,” by Johann Christian Heinrich Rink (1740-1846). In 1835, Miss M. Durham wrote music to “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks.” Today, the hymn is most recognized as sung to Durham’s music arranged in 1895 by Rigdon McCoy McIntosh. While the 1895 version wouldn’t have been played by Charles Ingalls during the winter of 1880-1881, it must have later been familiar to both Pa and Laura.

Sometimes called “Promised Land” (Stennett’s original title), McIntosh’s music contains the refrain: “I’m bound for the promised land, I’m bound for the promised land. Oh, who will come and go with me? I’m bound for the promised land.” Although Wilder suggests that her family sang a refrain, in The Long Winter, the words she quoted are not from “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” but are from “Bright Canaan,” which is the song Ma is singing to Grace in the text immediately before Laura tells Carrie to sing. In the surviving manuscript for The Long Winter, Wilder writes that after Pa goes to do the chores before bed, the girls listen while Ma sings to Grace.

Samuel Stennett (1727-1795) was a London resident and Baptist minister. He wrote 39 hymns, five of which were included in Rippon’s collection. “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” was popular in America, appearing in every Methodist hymnal since the early 1800s, usually including only several of the original stanzas.

(words by Samuel Stennett)

1. On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.

2. O the transporting, rapturous scene
That rises to my sight;
Sweet fields arrayed in living green,
And rivers of delight!

3. There generous fruits that never fail,
On trees imortal grow;
There rocks and hills, and brooks and vales,
With milk and honey flow.

4. O’er all those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day,
There God the Son for ever reigns,
And scatters night away.

5. No chilling winds, or poisonous breath,
Can reach that healthful shore;
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.

6. When I shall reach that happy place,
I’ll be forever blest,
For I shall see my Father’s face,
And in His bosom rest.

7. Filled with delight my raptured soul
Lives out its earthly day,
And then though Jordan’s waves may roll,
I’ll fearless launch away.

ON JORDAN’S STORMY BANKS (from The Long Winter)

On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
On Canaan’s bright and shining strand
Where my possessions lie.
Oh Canaan, bright Canaan,
I am bound for the happy land of Canaan…

CLICK HERE to listen.



Music from A.F. Myers, The New Century Carols (Dayton, Ohio: The United Brethren Publishing House, 1899), 95.



“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” (TLW 22)
     “Oh, Cannan, bright Cannan”
     “On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand”