I Wonder as I Wander – an appalachian carol

I Wonder as I Wander is a fascinating, and relative new comer to the advent and Christmas season song reportoire.  Yet it has also been extremely popular across musical genre’s being recorded by everyone from Joan Baez to Julie Andrews to Harry Connick Jr to Chanticleer.

It was originally discovered by John Jacob Niles, who like Alan Lomax, traveled the Appalachian folkways in the 1920 and 30’s collecting songs of all kinds.  John discovered this song while traveling through Murphy, NC in 1933.  The daughter of a traveling evangelist family was singing it and John paid the girl a few dollars to sing it long enough for him to sketch an idea of the melody and lyrics.

This text and its origins reflect the earthy resonance of Jesus’ arrival in the world. As you read the lyrics and hear the music it’s not hard to imagine this being sung by the Shepherds as they gospeled the story over the hills of Bethlehem.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for 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 he was the King.

Here are links to a few different versions plus one we are working on for our Lessons and Carols service.

John Jacob Niles
mp3 | info

Forest Mountain Hymnal


Cardiphonia arr
mp3 | leadsheet

One thought on “I Wonder as I Wander – an appalachian carol

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  1. Been singing this all my life, and I still admire its simple theology. Only makes this English teacher wince in one little place (hint: case of a pronoun). And is there any other hymn that uses the word “ornery”?? Got to love it.

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