Palms of Victory

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The gospel song, Palms of Victory, also called “Deliverance Will Come,” and “The Way-worn Traveler,” was evidently written in 1836 by the Rev. John B. Matthias, a Methodist Episcopal minister in New York state. This attribution is not well documented, and Matthias had no known history of song-writing, but there is no other author to whom it can be attributed (See below).

History of use[edit]

“Palms of Victory” has not been widely used in church circles. It seems to have been published in only four “standard” hymnals published it between 1900 and 1966: the Mennonite Church and Sunday-school Hymnal of 1902 (hymn no. 132),[1] Glorious Gospel Hymns (Nazarene) of 1931 (hymn no. 132 as "The Bloodwashed Pilgrim"),[2] the African Methodist Episcopal hymnal of 1954,[3] and the National Baptist Convention hymnal of 1924 (hymn #333).[4] In 1893, it had been included in the Seventh-day Adventist hymnal as #1145.[5] An informal survey of late nineteenth century and early twentieth century gospel song books found the song included in a small number of collections.[6][7][8] More recent research shows that it was included in 96 hymnals between 1875 and 1965.[9]

Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt recorded the song in their first attempt sessions of the subsequent Trio album. Recorded in 1978, the song went unreleased until Harris' 2007 compilation album Songbird: Rare Tracks and Forgotten Gems.

In the early 1920s, the song was recorded by the Carter Family[10] and by Uncle Dave Macon.[11]

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 recorded by other artists.[11][12]

In 1995 the "Bloodwashed Pilgrim" version of the song was recorded by Crystal Lewis and included in 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."[13] 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."

In recent years, "Palms of Victory," under various titles, has been recorded by various country singers.[14]

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."[15]

It has also been 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. It is possible that it was recorded in more videos than that.[16]


It is clear that “Palms of Victory” had to be 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. Jackson notes that spiritual folk songs arising from a community feature a “progressive simplification of the text.”[17] The song is clearly based on the story of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, a book that was widely read in the 19th Century, and that had a profound influence on the Christian world-view among all denominations.

If “Palms of Victory” was written in 1836, John B. Matthias was at that time serving congregations at Huntington South and Islip, New York, a rural circuit that might have welcomed this song. Perhaps John B. Matthias wrote and sang it to his congregations and someone else copied it down and scored it. Perhaps John B. Matthias was well known for singing the anonymous religious ballad or folk hymn (to use George Pullen Jackson’s categories), and so received credit for writing it. One might think that there has been a confusion between John B. Matthias and his son, John J. Matthias (d. 1861). In 1836, John J. Matthias, the son, was serving a “city church,” Nazareth Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. One wonders if the homespun melody and message of “Palms of Victory” would have been appropriate for such a congregation.

In 1886, the Rev. William McDonald published Songs of Joy and Gladness,[7] which included "Deliverance Will Come" as hymn #214. Then, in 1909 the song was included in New Songs of the Gospel, hymn #267, and that publication claimed that they had received permission from McDonald,[6] and some other song books have credited McDonald with authorship. However, it is clear that McDonald did not write the song, because it had been published prior to his book.

Ten years before New Songs of the Gospel the song had been published in an independent gospel song book[8] and seven years earlier the song had been published in a Mennonite song book, Church and Sunday-school Hymnal, hymn #132.[18] 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.

Wayne Erbsen refers to research done by Gus Meade concluding that Matthias wrote the song.[19]

It is certainly possible that “Palms of Victory” was written by someone else, and there seems to be no way to determine exactly how the song came to be.

Lyrics and variations[edit]


  1. ^ Diehl, Katharine Smith (1996). Hymns and Tunes—An Index. New York: Scarecrow Press.
  2. ^ Lillenas, Haldor(ed). Glorious Gospel Hymns. Kansas City, MO: Lillenas Publishing Company, 1931
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ The Seventh-Day Adventist Hymn and Tune Book for use in Divine Worship. Battle Creek, MI: Review and Herald Publishing House, 1893.
  6. ^ a b Hall, J. Lincoln, et al. New Songs of the Gospel, Numbers 1, 2 and 3 Combined. Philadelphia: Hall-Mack Company, 1909.
  7. ^ a b <McDonald, William, et al. Songs of Joy and Gladness: With a Supplement. McDonald and Gill, 1886.
  8. ^ a b 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
  9. ^ "I saw a wayworn traveler". Retrieved January 21, 2016.
  10. ^ 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."
  11. ^ a b Hyde, Lewis (2006-03-07). "Thieves, Commoners, and Bob Dylan". Archived from the original on September 18, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  12. ^ "The Broadside Singers". Smithsonian Folkways. Archived from the original on January 5, 2009. Retrieved March 27, 2009.
  13. ^
  14. ^ For example, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris recorded it and it was released on the Rhino recording, Songbird: Rare Tracks and Forgotten Gems.
  15. ^ Erbsen, Wayne. Old Time Gospel Songbook. Pacific, MO: MelBay Publications, p. 56.
  16. ^ "Hawaiian Homecoming DVD & CD." Hawaiian Homecoming DVD & CD. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2012. <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-11-16. Retrieved 2012-09-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)>.
  17. ^ Jackson, George Pullen. Spiritual Folk-Songs of Early America. New York: J. J. Augustin, 1937, reprinted by Dover Publications, 1964, p. 7.
  18. ^ Brunk, J. D. Church and Sunday-school Hymnal. Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Conferences, 1902, available on-line at [1]
  19. ^ 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,Guthrie_T.html
  20. ^ Hastings, H. L.Songs of Pilgrimage: A Hymnal for the Churches of Christ, 2nd Ed. Boston: Scriptural Tract Repository, 1888. no. 1279
  21. ^ "Deliverance Will Come (AKA the Wayworn Traveler) (Trad.)".
  22. ^ The Finest of the Wheat, No. 2. (Chicago, Illinois: R. R. McCabe & Co., 1894),