Note: An anecdote about this spiritual is told by Susannah Spurgeon (1832-1903), wife of the English Baptist preacher-hymn-writer C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892): "When our two colored brethren Messrs. Johnson and Richardson were on the eve of departure for missionary work in Africa they came with their wives to our dear home to bid us farewell. . . . . At the request of my dear husband they sang to me some of the strange sweet songs of their captivity for they had once been slaves; and all who heard these plaintive melodies sung in the Tabernacle at their farewell meetings will agree with me that sweeter yet sadder melodies could scarcely be imagined. My heart was especially attracted by a peculiar air to which they sang as a refrain these most curious words:'Keep inching along, keep inching along\ Like a poor inch worm—\ Jesus Christ 'll come bye-and-bye.' It is impossible to describe the weird pathos with which they invested these few sentences and my interest was so aroused that I asked if some special history attached to this strange song. Then they told me how in the sorrowful days of their bondage they would stealthily gather together night after night in one of the low miserable huts they called their home and sitting crouched on the floor hand clasped in hand in darkness and terror they would pray with one another and in muffled tones would whisper this very song. Sing it aloud they dared not for fear of their master who would have exacted full payment by stripes for such an assertion of nature's rights; but rocking to and fro in time to the wailing melody they found a 'fearful pleasure' in the disobedience which brought spiritual comfort to their oppressed souls.
The glorious hope of future deliverance excited and enraptured their hearts. 'Sometimes ' they said 'one of our number would forget the caution and silence so essential to our safety; and a voice would ring out in the darkness jubilant and clear'Jesus Christ 'll come bye-and-bye.' Then all would sit trembling after such an outburst lest they should be discovered by the shout of anticipated triumph and angels might have wept for the poor down-trodden souls and have longed to bring the sweet chariot coming for to carry them home.
''Will you sing to me in whispers as you sang then?' I asked and they very sweetly complied with my wish . . . I shall never forget that pitiful hushing of their voices. There was not a dry eye in the little company when the song was ended; but we wiped our tears away soon remembering that the cause for sorrow no longer existed. The 'poor inch worms' are now free noble educated men and women; they can sing and pray and preach as loudly and as long as they please and are bound for the land of their fathers with the intention of exercising these privileges to the full and making known the gospel of the grace of God to their kindred . . . The echoes of that singular song have lingered with me ever since and many a time have they comforted my heart." --quoted in The Life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon by Russell H. Conwell 1892"
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