Palms of Victory

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For the palm as a symbol of victory, see Palm branch (symbol).

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). The lyrics and tune can be seen at the "American Libraries" web site.[1]

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),[2] Glorious Gospel Hymns (Nazarene) of 1931(hymn no. 132 as "The Bloodwashed Pilgrim"),[3] the African Methodist Episcopal hymnal of 1954,[4] and the National Baptist Convention hymnal of 1961 (hymn #333)[5] In 1893, it had been included in the Seventh-day Adventist hymnal as #1145[6] An informal survey of late nineteenth century and early twentieth century gospel song books found the song included in a small number of collections.[7][8][9]

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,[8] 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,[7] 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[9] 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]

Wayworn Traveler Variation[edit]

The words as found in the 1902 publication are as follows:

Deliverance Will Come

I saw a wayworn traveler, in tattered garments clad,
And struggling up the mountain, it seemed that he was sad;
His back was laden heavy, his strength was almost gone,
Yet he shouted as he journeyed, "Deliverance will come!"
Then palms of victory, crowns of glory,
Palms of victory I shall wear.
The summer sun was shining, the sweat was on his brow,
His garments worn and dusty, his step seemed very slow;
But he kept pressing onward, for he was wending home,
Still shouting as he journeyed, "Deliverance will come!"
Then palms of victory, crowns of glory,
Palms of victory I shall wear.
The songsters in the arbor that stood beside the way
Attracted his attention, inviting his delay:
His watchword being "Onward!" he stopped his ears and ran,
Still shouting as he journeyed, "Deliverance will come!"
Then palms of victory, crowns of glory,
Palms of victory I shall wear.
I saw him in the evening; the sun was bending low;
He'd overtopped the mountain, and reached the vale below:
He saw the Golden City, "his everlasting home"
And shouted loud, "Hosanna! Deliverance will come!"
Then palms of victory, crowns of glory,
Palms of victory I shall wear.
While gazing on that city, just o'er the narrow flood,
A band of holy angels came from the throne of God;
They bore him on their pinions safe o'er the dashing foam,
And joined him in his triumph: Deliverance had come!
Then palms of victory, crowns of glory,
Palms of victory I shall wear.
I heard the song of triumph they sang upon that shore,
Saying, "Jesus has redeemed us to suffer nevermore!"
Then casting his eyes backward on the race which he had run,
He shouted loud, "Hosanna! Deliverance has come!"
Then palms of victory, crowns of glory,
Palms of victory I shall wear.

Additional stanzas were published in the 1888 Songs of Pilgrimage: A Hymnal for the Churches of Christ:[20]

His eyes were dim and heavy,his body weak and way,
Therefore his Brother gave him a couch to lie upon;
And closed the blinds around him,and locked him up alone,
That nothing might disturb him,till deliverance should come.
Hope made for him a pillow,and faith a garment rare,
To wrap him in his slumbers,till Christ his home prepare.
But when the dawn of morning broke in his little room,
He rose, and cried “Hosanna!Deliverance has come!”
Then I heard the song of triumph he sung upon that shore,
Saying, “Jesus has redeemed me,to suffer never more;”
And casting his eyes backward on the race that he had run,
He shouted loud, “Hosanna!Deliverance has come!”

The chorus has been translated into German as follows:

Denn Siegespalmen
Und Ehrenkronen,
Siegespalmen sind unser Lohn.[21]

Bloodwashed Pilgrim Variation[edit]

The song has also been sung with the title, “The Bloodwashed Pilgrim,” using different words and the same tune:[22]

I saw a blood washed pilgrim, a sinner saved by grace,
Upon the King’s highway, with peaceful, shining face;
Temptations sore beset him, but nothing could afright;
He said, “The yoke is easy, the burden, it is light.”
Then palms of victory, crowns of glory,
Palms of victory I shall wear.
His helmet was salvation, a simple faith his shield,
And righteousness his breastplate, the spirit’s sword he’d wield.
All fiery darts arrested, and quenched their blazing flight;
He cried “The yoke is easy, the burden, it is light.”
I saw him in the furnace; he doubted not, nor feared,
And in the flames beside him, the Son of God appeared;
Though seven times ’twas heated, with all the tempter’s might,
He cried, “The yoke is easy, the burden, it is light.”
’Mid storms, and clouds, and trials, in prison, at the stake,
He leaped for joy, rejoicing, ’twas all for Jesus’ sake;
That God should count him worthy, was such supreme delight,
He cried, “The yoke is easy, the burden, is so light.”
I saw him overcoming, through all the swelling strife,
Until he crossed the threshold of God’s eternal life;
The crown, the throne, the scepter, the name, the stone so white,
Were his, who found, in Jesus, the yoke and burden light.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Diehl, Katharine Smith (1996). Hymns and Tunes—An Index. New York: Scarecrow Press. 
  3. ^ Lillenas, Haldor(ed). Glorious Gospel Hymns. Kansas City, MO: Lillenas Publishing Company, 1931
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Townsend, Mrs. A. M.(ed). The Baptist Standard Hymnal With Responsive Readings. Nashville, TN: Sunday School Publishing Board, National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., 1961.
  6. ^ The Seventh-Day Adventist Hymn and Tune Book for use in Divine Worship. Battle Creek, MI: Review and Herald Publishing House, 1893.
  7. ^ a b Hall, J. Lincoln, et al. New Songs of the Gospel, Numbers 1, 2 and 3 Combined. Philadelphia: Hall-Mack Company, 1909.
  8. ^ a b <McDonald, William, et al. Songs of Joy and Gladness: With a Supplement. McDonald and Gill, 1886.
  9. ^ 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
  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". Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  12. ^ [2]
  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. <>.
  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 [3]
  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. ^ [4]
  22. ^ The Finest of the Wheat, No. 2. (Chicago, Illinois: R. R. McCabe & Co., 1894),