Study Guide

Swing Low Sweet Chariot

by Anonymous

Swing Low Sweet Chariot Summary


Lines 1-4:
The first stanza consists of two repeated lines that introduce the main image of the poem, a chariot that descends from the sky to carry the speaker home. For some singers and listeners, the chariot may represent the path to freedom offered by organized abolitionists through the Underground Railroad. For others it could symbolize a chariot of the Lord offering transportation for the soul to heaven. This interpretation has its origin in the Bible, which contains descriptions of chariots used in war as well as to transport honored souls, such as the prophet Elijah's, to heaven. Since the chariot in this song is "sweet" it suggests a conveyance to heaven more than to battle in war. "Psalm 68" in the Bible's book of Psalms, for example, depicts God as having thousands of chariots, a sign of his power. In addition to the imagery here, this stanza uses alliteration—the "s" in "swing" and "sweet." This and all of the stanzas exhibit alliteration of the "k" sound in "comin" and "carry," two words from the repeated chorus. The chorus is meant to be sung by a group, whereas the first and third lines of each stanza are intended to be sung by an individual, the spiritual leader.

Lines 5-6:
In the second stanza, the lead voice sings about a group of angels coming from Jordan, the river that flows from the Sea of Galilee through the biblical Holy Land. According to the Bible, a group of Israelites crossed the Jordan River in their quest for the Promised Land. The Jordan is also...

(The entire section is 619 words.)