“Is Your Lamps Gone Out”


"Is your lamps gone out? (x2), Oh, what you going to do in Egypt When your lamps gone out?" "If you get there before I do, O what you going to do... When your lamps gone out?" "The tallest tree in paradise..." "The Christians call it the tree of life..."


Almost all of this, except the chorus "Oh, what you going to do in Egypt When your lamps gone out," is paralleled in "All My Trials," and also in "Tell All the World, John." It is not clear to me which inspired the others. - RBW

From the ... verse "Come on sister and follow me/I will show you the man who set me free," it has been theorized that this may have been an Underground Railroad song. I don't think so, but it's worth mentioning. Thieme also suggests that "Egypt" may be a reference to the area of southern Illinois near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, known to boatmen as "Egypt" or "Little Egypt." The probable collection of this song in Texas makes that problematical. - PJS

Cross references

  • cf. "Wade in the Water" (floating lyrics) and references there
  • cf. "All My Trials" (lyrics)
  • cf. "Tell All the World, John" (lyrics)
  • cf. ""Michael, Row the Boat Ashore" (floating lyrics)


  • Art Thieme, "Is Your Lamps Gone Out?" (on Thieme06)
  • Unknown artists, "When Yo' Lamp's Gone Out" (AFS CYL-11-1, 1933)


  1. MWheeler, pp. 75-77, "Is Yo' Lamps Gone Out" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Roud #10025
  3. BI, MWhee075


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1933 (field recording, unknown artists)
Found in: US(MW,So)