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“There is a Happy Land”

Then Ma began to sway gently in the comfortable rocking-chair. Fire-light ran up and down, up and down the barrel of Pas pistol in her lap. And Ma sang, softly and sweetly… — Little House on the Prairie, Chapter 17, “Pa Goes to Town”

Charles,’ Ma said, softly, to remind him that this was Sunday. Then they all sang together, ‘There is a happy land…’ — On the Banks of Plum Creek, Chapter 24, “Going to Church”

Men were unloading the cars into wagons. But they all stopped suddenly and jumped down from the wagons. Some of them yelled, and one big man began to sing ma’s favorite hymn. Only he did not sing its words. — By the Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 4, “End of the Rails”

Then Reverend Alden preached the sermon. After that, Pa’s fiddle gaily and sweetly played and they all sang… — By the Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 23, “On the Pilgrim Way”

After dinner Pa played hymn tunes on his fiddle, and all the afternoon they sang… They sang Ma’s favorite, ‘There is a Happy Land, Far, Far Away’… — The Long Winter, Chapter 37, “We’ll Weather the Blast”

     
TThere is a Happy Land (or “Happy Land”) is the song appearing the most times in the Little House series, used in four books and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s handwritten Pioneer Girl manuscript, as well as in the Bye, Brandt, and shorter revised Pioneer Girl manuscripts typed by Rose Wilder Lane. A variation on the lyrics is sung by railroad workers in By the Shores of Silver Lake, and more than once, Wilder referred to the hymn as her mother’s favorite.

The words to “There is a Happy Land” were written by Andrew Young in 1838. They were adapted to a Hindustani air (often called “Indian Love Song”) by Leonard P. Breedlove in 1850. Andrew Young (1807-1889) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was a Scottish schoolmaster and poet who served as the headmaster of the English department of Madras College in India. He wrote “There is a Happy Land” based on the lyrics of a popular parlor song which began: “I’ve come from a happy land…” because he thought the words could be adapted for Sunday school use.

Leonard P. Breedlove (born circa 1803) was a great 19th century Georgia singer, renowned for his strong bass voice and his knowledge of music. He was a singing school teacher who helped spread Sacred Harp singing in Georgia and neighboring states. He was on the revision committee for the 1850 edition of the Sacred Harp singing book and composed music for several songs, including “There is a Happy Land.” He was secretary of the Southern Musical Convention from 1845-1850.

Sacred Harp singing is a non-denominational musical event emphasizing participation, not performance. Singers sit in a hollow square, facing inward, and take turns leading the singing, keeping time with motions of the hand. Sacred Harp music is printed in patent notes, in which the shape indicates the syllables fa, sol, la, and mi.

THERE IS A HAPPY LAND

1. There is a happy land,
Far, far away,
Where saints in glory stand,
Bright, bright as day;
Oh, how they sweetly sing,
Worthy is our Savior King,
Loud let His praises ring,
Praise, praise for aye.

2. Come to that happy land,
Come, come away;
Why will you doubting stand,
Why still delay?
Oh, we shall happy be,
When from sin and sorrow free,
Lord, we shall live with Thee,
Blest, blest for aye.

3. Bright, in that happy land,
Beams every eye;
Kept by a Father’s hand,
Love cannot die;
Oh, then to glory run;
Be a crown and kingdom won;
And, bright, above the sun,
We reign for aye.

     

THERE IS A HAPPY LAND
Variation from By the Shores of Silver Lake

There is a boarding house,
Not far away
Where they have fried ham and eggs
Three times a day.

Wow! How the boarders yell
When they hear that dinner bell!
Whoop! How those eggs do smell!
Three times–

THERE IS A HAPPY LAND
from Little House on the Prairie

There is a happy land,
Far, far away,
Where saints in glory stand,
Bright, bright as day.

Oh, to hear the angels sing,
Glory to the Lord, our King–

     

THERE IS A HAPPY LAND
from On the Banks of Plum Creek

There is a happy land,
Far, far away,
Where saints in glory stand,
Bright, bright as day.

     

THERE IS A HAPPY LAND
from On the Banks of Plum Creek

There is a happy land,
Far, far away,
Where saints in glory stand,
Bright, bright as day.

CLICK HERE to listen.

   

   

               

Click on the above images to view a copy of 1850s sheet music with variations on “There is a Happy Land.”

This music is archived in the Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music Collection at the Library of Congress. The Collection contains more than 62,500 pieces of historical sheet music registered for copyright: more than 15,000 registered during the years 1820-1860 and more than 47,000 registered during the years 1870-1885.    

     

“There is a Happy Land” (LHP 17; BPC 24; SSL 4, 23; TLW 14; PG)
     “There is a boarding house not far away”
     “There is a happy land, far, far away”