“David's Lamentation”


"David the king was grieved and moved, He went to his chamber, his chamber and wept. And as he went, he wept and said, 'Oh my son! Oh my son, would to God I had died, would to God I had died for thee, Oh Absalom, my son, my son."


The original William Billing song (of slightly uncertain date, though obviously in existence by the early nineteenth century) is taken almost verbatim from 2 Samuel 18:33. A second verse, rarely sung and not found in the Sacred Harp or the Missouri Harmony, is almost as close to 2 Samuel 19:2:

Vict'ry that day was turned into mourning

When the people did see how the King grieved for his son.

He covered his face and in a loud voice cried,

"Oh my son...."

I cannot absolutely prove that the round "Absalom My Son" is descended from the Billings piece; the words are straight from the Bible, after all. There is, however, melodic similarity (though not identity), and the Billings tune was designed as a fugue, which would encourage its conversion to a round. - RBW


  1. Silber-FSWB, p. 412, "Oh, Absalom, My Son" (1 text)
  3. Roud #15055
  4. BI, FSWB412B


Author: William Billings
Earliest date: 1840 (Missouri Harmony)
Found in: US