I wonder as I wander out under the sky how Jesus [the]1 Saviour did come for to die for poor [ordn'ry]2 people like you and like I I wonder as I wander out under the sky when Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow stall with wise men and [farmers and shepherds]3 and all [but high from the Heavens a star's light did fall [and a]4 promise of ages it then did recall]5 If Jesus had wanted [for]6 any wee thing A star in the sky or a bird on the wing; Or all of God's angels in Heav'n for to sing, He surely [could have it 'cause]7 he was the King!
This text is often described as an Appalachian carol transcribed by Niles, but he did more than transcribe it according to The Songs of John Jacob Niles: New Edition Containing Eight Additional Songs, with a Preface by John Jacob Niles, New York: G. Schirmer, Inc., 1993. From Niles's preface, dated 1975: "Suffice it to say that I wrote it in 1933, based on a fragment I overheard in the courthouse square in Murphy, N.C." (Thanks to Rufus Browning for the information). See also I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles by Ron Pen, University Press of Kentucky, 2010, pages 154-155, for a description of the development of the text.
1 Berio, Britten: "our"
2 Britten: "or’n’ry"; Rutter: "ornery"
3 Britten: "shepherds and farmers"
4 Berio: "the"
5 Britten: "On high from God’s heaven the star’s light did fall, / And the promise of the ages it did then recall." ; omitted by Rutter
6 Berio: "of"
7 Berio: "could have had it 'cause"; Britten: "could've had it for"
- by John Jacob Niles (1892 - 1980), "I wonder as I wander", written 1933 [author's text checked 1 time against a primary source]
Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)
- by Luciano Berio (1925 - 2003), "I wonder as I wander", 1964, from Folk Songs, no. 2, note: arranged for Cathy Berberian [text verified 1 time]
- by (Edward) Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976), "I wonder as I wander", published 1934 [voice and piano], in Songs of the Hill Folk [text verified 1 time]
- by Jake Heggie (b. 1961), "I wonder as I wander", 1996, first performed 1996 [mezzo-soprano and strings], from On the Road to Christmas, no. 4. [text not verified]
- by John Jacob Niles (1892 - 1980), "I wonder as I wander" [unaccompanied voice] [text verified 1 time]
- by John (Milford) Rutter, CBE (b. 1945), "I wonder as I wander" [chorus a cappella] [text verified 1 time]
Available translations, adaptations, and transliterations (if applicable):
- FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , title 1: "Je m'émerveille en marchant", copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
- FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , title 1: "Je m'interroge en me promenant", copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
Researcher for this text: Jeroen Scholten