Add to Favourites | Email this Page | Print this Page  

bullet SITE MENU

bullet Hymns we love: Lord of the Dance

Lord of the Dance

Hymns we love to sing

 

 

 

 

Lord of the Dance
Sydney Carter [1915-2004]
 
 
 

I danced in the morning
When the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heave
And I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem I had my birth. 

Dance, then,wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all,
wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all
in the Dance, said he.

I danced for the scribe
And the pharisee,
But they would not dance 
And they wouldn't follow me.
I danced for the fishermen,
For James and John -
They came with me
And the Dance went on.

I danced on the Sabbath
And I cured the lame;
The holy people
Said it was a shame.
They whipped and they stripped
And they hung me on high,
And they left me there
On a Cross to die.

I danced on a Friday
When the sky turned black -
It's hard to dance
With the devil on your back.
They buried my body
And they thought I'd gone,
But I am the Dance,
And I still go on.

They cut me down
And I leapt up high;
I am the life
That'll never, never die;
I'll live in you
If you'll live in me -
I am the Lord
Of the Dance, said he. 

This popular hymn was written in 1963 and published in the author’s Carols and Ballads.  It owes much to the traditional Christmas Carol ‘Tomorrow shall be my dancing day’.  

Sydney Bertram Carter was an English poet, folk musician and Quaker.  He was born in Camden Town, London, and studied at Oxford University.  During the war he served, as a committed pacifist, in the Friends’ Ambulance.   

Carter wrote the lyrics "Lord Of The Dance" as an adaptation of Joseph Brackett's "Simple Gifts" and as a tribute to Shaker music.  He once said, "I did not think the churches would like it at all. I thought many people would find it pretty far flown, probably heretical and anyway dubiously Christian.  But in fact people did sing it and, unknown to me, it touched a chord… it's the sort of Christianity I believe in." 

Lord of the Dance takes the idea of a carol a stage further and presents the whole of God’s plan of creation and redemption as a dance.  It begins ‘in the morning when the world was begun’ and ends with the cross and resurrection. 

The Shaker Tune is a traditional Shaker Melody.  Shakers were members of a movement which seceded from the Society of Friends [Quakers] in 1747.  They were celibate, taught the imminent Second Coming of Christ and worshipped through dancing and singing.  

Sydney Carter wrote of Lord of the Dance: "I see Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us.  He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality.  By Christ I mean not only Jesus; in other times and places, other planets, there may be other Lords of the Dance.  But Jesus is the one I know of first and best.  I sing of the dancing pattern in the life and words of Jesus. 

Whether Jesus ever leaped in Galilee to the rhythm of a pipe or drum I do not know.  We are told that David danced [and as an act of worship too], so it is not impossible.  The fact that many Christians have regarded dancing as a bit ungodly [in a church, at any rate] does not mean that Jesus did. 

The Shakers didn't. This sect flourished in the United States in the nineteenth century, but the first Shakers came from Manchester in England, where they were sometimes called the "Shaking Quakers". They hived off to America in 1774, under the leadership of Mother Anne.  Dancing, for them, was a spiritual activity. They also made furniture of a functional, lyrical simplicity.  Their hymns were odd, but sometimes of great beauty.  For a change I sing the whole song in the present tense. 'I dance in the morning when the world is begun...'. It's worth a try"