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The gospel song Palms of Victory, also called "Deliverance Will Come", and "The Way-worn Traveler", appears to have been written in 1836 by John B. Matthias, a Methodist Episcopal minister in New York State. This attribution is not well documented, and Matthias had no known history of songwriting, but there is no other author to whom it can be attributed.
"Palms of Victory" appears to have been written by someone in particular, rather than having been the development of a community of folk singers, because it is a sophisticated song with complex verses that tell a consistent story. George Pullen Jackson notes that spiritual folk songs arising from a community feature a "progressive simplification of the text". The song is clearly based on the story of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
In 1886, William McDonald published Songs of Joy and Gladness, which included "Deliverance Will Come" as hymn #214. Then, in 1909, the song was included in New Songs of the Gospel as hymn #267, and that publication claimed that they had received permission from McDonald. As the song had been published prior to this book, however, it is clear that McDonald did not write it.
Ten years before New Songs of the Gospel, "Palms of Victory" had been published in an independent gospel songbook, and seven years earlier, the song had been published in a Mennonite songbook, Church and Sunday-school Hymnal, hymn #132. In both the 1899 and 1902 books, credit for words and music are given to John B. Matthias, with no mention of McDonald's arrangement. There is hardly any difference in the music between the 1902 and 1909 publications, and the only difference in the words is that the 1909 publication omits stanza 3 as found in the 1902 publication.
History of use
"Palms of Victory" has not been widely used in church circles. It seems to have been published in only four "standard" hymnals, between 1900 and 1966: the Mennonite Church and Sunday-school Hymnal of 1902 (hymn no. 132), Glorious Gospel Hymns (Nazarene) of 1931 (hymn no. 132, as "The Bloodwashed Pilgrim"), the African Methodist Episcopal hymnal of 1954, and the National Baptist Convention hymnal of 1924 (hymn #333). In 1893, it was included in the Seventh-day Adventist hymnal as #1145. An informal survey of late-19th century and early-20th century gospel song books found the song included in a small number of collections. More recent research shows that it was included in 96 hymnals between 1875 and 1965.
Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt recorded the song in their first-attempt sessions of the album Trio. Recorded in 1978, the song went unreleased until Harris' 2007 compilation album, Songbird: Rare Tracks and Forgotten Gems.
In 1962 or 1963, Bob Dylan picked it up, changed the words, and wrote "Paths of Victory", which he sang on a Westinghouse television special. Dylan's version was published in Broadside magazine and later recorded by other artists.
In 1995, the "Bloodwashed Pilgrim" version of the song was recorded by Crystal Lewis and included on her album entitled Hymns: My Life.
The University of California has several fight songs, one of which is sometimes called "Palms of Victory" and includes the words "Palms of victory we will win for Alma Mater true." This is not the gospel song but instead takes its melody from a minstrel song known as "Springtime in Dixieland", or "Happy Days in Dixieland".
Wayne Erbsen notes that the tune was used for a protest song called "Pans of Biscuits", with the chorus lyrics being "Pans of biscuits, bowls of gravy/Pans of biscuits we shall have."
It was recorded by Guy Penrod when he was a member of the Gaither Vocal Band, a Southern Gospel Group led by Bill Gaither. The song was featured in at least one Gaither Homecoming video title, The Hawaiian Homecoming.
Lyrics and variations
Way-worn traveler variation
The words, as found in the 1902 publication, are as follows:
Deliverance Will Come
Additional stanzas were published in the 1888 Songs of Pilgrimage: A Hymnal for the Churches of Christ:
The chorus has been translated into German as follows:
Bloodwashed pilgrim variation
The song has also been sung with the title "The Bloodwashed Pilgrim", using different words and the same tune:
- Jackson, George Pullen. Spiritual Folk-Songs of Early America. New York: J. J. Augustin, 1937, reprinted by Dover Publications, 1964, p. 7.
- <McDonald, William, et al. Songs of Joy and Gladness: With a Supplement. McDonald and Gill, 1886.
- Hall, J. Lincoln, et al. New Songs of the Gospel, Numbers 1, 2 and 3 Combined. Philadelphia: Hall-Mack Company, 1909.
- Number 115 in Clack, H. P. Songs and Praises for Revivals, Sunday Schools, Singing Schools, and General Church Work. Dallas, TX: H. P. Clack, 1899
- Brunk, J. D. Church and Sunday-school Hymnal. Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Conferences, 1902, available on-line at 
- Erbsen, Wayne. Bluegrass Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus. (Mel Bay) Native Ground Books and Music, 2004. p. 24. A guide to Meade's papers is at http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/m/Meade,Guthrie_T.html
- Diehl, Katharine Smith (1996). Hymns and Tunes—An Index. New York: Scarecrow Press.
- Lillenas, Haldor(ed). Glorious Gospel Hymns. Kansas City, MO: Lillenas Publishing Company, 1931
- A.M.E. Hymnal: With Responsive Scripture Readings Adopted in Conformity with the Doctrines and Usages of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. NP:A.M.E. Sunday School Union, 1954.
- Townsend, Mrs. A. M.(ed). The Baptist Standard Hymnal With Responsive Readings. Nashville, TN: Sunday School Publishing Board, National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., 1924.
- The Seventh-Day Adventist Hymn and Tune Book for use in Divine Worship. Battle Creek, MI: Review and Herald Publishing House, 1893.
- "I saw a wayworn traveler". Hymnary.org. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
- Recorded under the title "Wayworn Traveler." Available on several CDs, including the 12-CD box set The Carter Family: In the Shadow of Clinch Mountain.
- Hyde, Lewis (March 7, 2006). "Thieves, Commoners, and Bob Dylan". OnTheCommons.org. Retrieved April 20, 2009.
- "The Broadside Singers". Smithsonian Folkways. Archived from the original on January 5, 2009. Retrieved March 27, 2009.
- "Home". fightsonglyrics.com.
- Erbsen, Wayne. Old Time Gospel Songbook. Pacific, MO: MelBay Publications, p. 56.
- "Hawaiian Homecoming DVD & CD." Hawaiian Homecoming DVD & CD. N.p., n.d. Web. September 15, 2012. <"Hawaiian Homecoming DVD & CD". Archived from the original on November 16, 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2012.>.
- Hastings, H. L.Songs of Pilgrimage: A Hymnal for the Churches of Christ, 2nd Ed. Boston: Scriptural Tract Repository, 1888. no. 1279
- "Deliverance Will Come (AKA the Wayworn Traveler) (Trad.)".
- The Finest of the Wheat, No. 2. (Chicago, Illinois: R. R. McCabe & Co., 1894), http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/d/e/l/i/delivwco.htm