"Go Down Death"

By: James Weldon Johnson
(More Information...)

Karen loved to read.

My thanks to a speaker at the Tellico Village Community Church for using this poem in a sermon, "The WOW Syndrome", on 02-22-98, and to the church for publishing and archiving the sermon text online (<http://user.icx.net/~msingley/980222.html>.)

I fell in love with this poem in college back in the 70's, yet its message carries far more meaning for me now than it did back then in my innocence.  It was good to find it at last after all of these years.

My apologies to Mr. Johnson for my personalization of his excellent work.

Karen loved to read.

"Go Down Death"
Copyright © 1927 James Weldon Johnson
Renewed 1955 by Grace Nail Johnson
All Rights Reserved

Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband - weep no more;
Grief-stricken son - weep no more;
Left-lonesome loved ones¹ - weep no more;
She's only just gone Home.

Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Karen Ann²,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God's big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.

And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
"Call me Death!"
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice that broke like a clap of thunder:
"Call Death! - Call Death!"
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.

And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.
Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hoofs of his horse struck fire from the gold,
But they didn't make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God's command.

And God said: "Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Augusta³, Georgia,
And find Sister Karen Ann².
She's borne the burden and the heat of the day,
She's labored in my vineyard,
And she's tired - She's weary
Go down, Death, and bring her to me."

And death didn't say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven's pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
On Death rode,
And the foam from his horse was like a comet in the sky;
On Death rode,
Leaving the lightning's flash behind;
Straight on down he came.

While she was alone, feverish in her bed¹¹,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn't see;
She saw Old Death.
She saw Old Death coming like a falling star.
But Death didn't frighten Sister Karen Ann²;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to herself¹²:
"I'm going home,"
And she smiled and closed her eyes.

And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn't feel no chill.
And Death began to ride again
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Karen Ann²
On the loving breast of Jesus.

And Jesus took his own hand and wiped away her tears,
And he smoothed the furrows from her face,
And the angels sang a little song,
And Jesus rocked her in his arms,
And kept a-saying:
"Take your rest,
Take your rest,
Take your rest."

Weep not - weep not,
She's not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.

¹Left-lonesome daughter
¹¹While we were watching round her bed

Karen wanted to help other folks with MELAS.
Original Material: Copyright © 1927 James Weldon Johnson
Renewed 1955 by Grace Nail Johnson
All Rights Reserved

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Karen had the greatest smile.

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