Its origin dates back to a German song from 1816 that passed to the USA

'The Wayfaring Stranger', the story of the beautiful Christian song from the movie '1917'

The film "1917", set in the First World War and released two years ago, is a masterpiece of war cinema. It has really great scenes.

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One of them appears towards the end of the film, when the protagonist, a young British soldier, arrives at a grove where there is a group of soldiers listening, in respectful silence, to one of them who sings a beautiful song. The song in question is known as "The Wayfaring Stranger", and has a very appropriate lyrics for the story that tells the movie (you can read it at the end of this post). This is the studio version of that song released by Sony after the film was released, and sung by Jos Slovick, the same actor who played it in the film:

I recently came across a version performed by Canadian singer Rachel Hardy, which I thought was really excellent:

Curiously, this song, with a clearly Christian content, has its origin in a German Christian song, "Ich bin ja nur ein Gast auf Erden" (I am only a guest on earth), written by Isaac Niswander in 1816 and with lyrics very similar to the English version. Here you can listen to the original German song:

Decades after the appearance of this German song, in 1858 the first English version appeared in print in the United States, in a Christian songbook that collected popular songs of that time. Three years later the American Civil War broke out, and during the war this song became very popular among the long-suffering soldiers. At the end of the day, the song is about a lonely wayfarer going through the hardships of this world, hoping to get to heaven, the place where his loved ones already are. The song mentions the Jordan River, because it was the waterway through which the Jewish people reached the promised land.

Over the years, the song has had different lyrics and various titles: "My Glory Land", "Over Jordan", "I Am a Poor Wayfaring Stranger", "Judgement", "Wayfaring Pilgrim" and "Wayfaring Stranger", among others. Johnny Cash was one of the musicians who recorded a version of the song, with a country style:

Here are the lyrics to the song as it appeared in "1917":

I am a poor wayfaring stranger,
I'm travelling through this world of woe,
Yet there's no sickness, toil nor danger
In that bright land to which I go.

I'm going there to see my father,
I'm going there, no more to roam.
I'm only going over Jordan,
I'm only going over home.

I know dark clouds will gather round me,
I know my way is rough and steep.
But golden fields lie just before me
Where God's redeemed shall ever sleep.

I'm going home to see my mother,
And all my loved ones who've gone on.
I'm only going over Jordan,
I'm only going over home.

Usually, the song adds one more verse:

"I’m going there to see my Savior
To sing His praise forever more.
I’m just a going over Jordan
I’m only going over home".

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