As a teenager, I remember once listening to a phonograph record, which an aunt of mine had, which had “The Sermon of the Psaltree” on.it. I was very taken with it, so much so that I committed it to memory. Recently a friend - Carol - asked me if I still remembered the sermon. I said I thought I still had most of it memorized. She suggested that I try and put it down on paper. This resulted in my trying to recall the words, as I first heard them.
It also resulted in my doing a web search of the Internet, to see if I could find the original text, but I found only one reference, which I have copied and pasted in below…
“I loved the one about the preacher who could not read that well and was preaching from the book of Psalms and just could not figure out the word PSALTRE.* So he sounded it out and came up with the word “Peasle Tree,” so that was what he preached on.”
(* Note from Jamaica Jim: The psaltre is a musical instrument.)
From the dim recesses of my memory, I seemed to remember the sermon was supposed to have been given by a Negro preach in rural South Georgia. I also seem to remember that in the original version, there was a some mention of the preacher being just barely literate - he was able to “read readin’ but not writin’“ - an obvious reference to his being able to read printed words, but he couldn't read cursive writing. The preacher also tended to combine his Bible knowledge with what he knew of then current events, which resulted in the mélange of his everyday happenings being mixed into his Biblical references, as well as getting his basic Biblical facts mixed up. It was also noted (as indicated in the brochure text which is now copied below) that the phrase, “gleanin’ in de vineyard of de Lawd” was a reference to the preacher having dallied in bed with one of the women of the church, which left him without sufficient time to compose a proper sermon.
The sermon on this page was originally composed from memory in 2002 and was revised in January 2010. Finally, after a lot of web searching, I was able to find where I could purchase the original, brand new 78 rpm record, in the original slipcover and with a printed brochure (in black and white with one graphic - see here ). It was really pricey, but if you want a copy, Walt Smith at RecordSmith.Com has the CD for sale, for $15.00. Walt Smith's address is: 2803 Irisdale Avenue, Richmond, VA 23228.
Or, you can download and listen to The Sermon of the Psaltre! Yes, I've added an .MP3 file below which you can play directly from this page! Click here to go directly to the .MP3 file information at the bottom of this page. Enjoy!
In January, 2010 I carefully reworked the text of the original file and web page, since I now had a CD with the original reworded content. I listened to the CD on one computer and, at the same time, edited the text on a second computer, to get everything completely correct. The dialect is sometimes difficult to decipher, but the text below is, I believe, as close to the actual spoken sermon as I can get.
Now, without further ado, here it is – “The Sermon of the Psaltre” – as I remember it. I hope y'all enjoy it!
“The Sermon of the Peasle Tree”
"Brother'n and Sister'n, I's been so took up dis week wid de pastoral duties 'mongst de flock and gleanin' in de vineyard of de Lawd, dat I ain't had time to give to de preparation of no real theologic sermon. I's gwine let de Bible drap open and wheresoever my eyes rest, I'll know dat de Lawd has guided me to dat text to hold forth to y'all's dis mornin'.
"My eyes rest heah, Brethen and Sistern, at de text as recorded in Two Eye Kings, whar de text say dat "de Chillen of Israel worshipped De Lawd wid de harp and wid de instument of seven strings and wid de … uh … wid de … uh … p s a l t r e.' Now, Brethen and Sistern, de text say dat 'de Chillen of Israel worshipped De Lawd wid de harp and wid de instument of seven strings and wid de … p s a l t r e … and wid de Peasle Tree!
"Now, my text dis beautiful Sabbath morn will be de Peasle Tree! I's gib a great deal of thought to study of de history of de Peasle Tree. De Peasle Tree was a tree what grow up in Moses' backyard down in de land of Egypt.
"And, when de Peasle Tree is growed up and flourish like de young shade tree, Moses went out in de backyard and he took his two bit Barlow knife … de one dat has four blades and a beer opener in de back … and he cut hisself a staff off'n de Peasle Tree and when he has skinned de staff up good and smooth, de Lawd spake unto Moses and he say, "Moses, take thy Peasle Tree staff in thy hand and put thy food in de middle of de big road leadin' on down to of Mr. Pharaoh's house!
"Now, Brethen and Sistern, Mr. Pharaoh was quality white folks in dem parts, in dem days. But Moses, he ain't paid no mind to dat 'case he knows dat de Lawd was 'hind him and he walk big and cocky, like de Lawd want all his people do when dey know dat de Lawd is 'hind dem in what deys doin'! And, besides of dat, Moses was a meekest man dat eber lived and he played on de harp wid a thousand strings, spirits of righteous men to make perfect!
"And, Brethen and Sistern, Moses jus walk rite up to front door of Mr. Pharaoh's house and knock on de big brass knocker door. And, when Pharaoh's boy come to de door, he say, 'What you want, Moses, come round heah knocking on white folks' front door like dis?'
"Pharaoh was a proud man, he don' like to hab people knock on his front door. And, Moses jus' say, 'I wants to see Mr. Pharaoh!' And, de boy say, 'Mr. Pharaoh claim dat he ain't in dis morning.' And Moses say, 'I knows dat he's in case I sees his saddle house hitch out here at de hitchin' rack!' And, he talk to him like dat, Brethen and Sistern, and he turn't Moses in to see Pharaoh. And, Mr. Pharaoh say, 'Moses, what you doin' pesterin' me like dat, in de middle of de mornin' when you knows dat a gentleman ain't s'posed to be done drinkin' his mint julep yet?' And, Moses said, 'Pharaoh, I wants you to turn dem chillen' loose!'
"''What chillen' you talking' bout?' say Mr. Pharaoh. Moses say, 'Now, Mr. Pharaoh, don't you try to act all bigens wid me! You knows I's talking 'bout dem Chillen of Israel, I want you to turn loose!'
"Pharaoh say, 'What you doin' talking 'bout dem Chillen of Israel? Didn't I gib 'em a day off on George Washington's birfday and didn't I gib 'em Fouth of July off? And, ain't de cotton and de corn jus … and de 'bacca and all dat … jus plum filthy wid weeds? Ain't gwina gib 'em no more day off!'
"And, when Moses see dat Pharaoh is hard in his heart, 'gainst him like dat, Moses jus drop de Peasle Tree staff on de ground and it turn into a fiery serpent! Pharaoh jumps back from de fiery serpent … he scared! Moses jus retch down and pick up de fiery serpent by de tail and strip it 'round his head three times for luck and make a cross on de ground and spit in de middle of it, take de conju'e off, and turn back into a Peasle Tree cane!
"Pharaoh say, 'Now look here, Moses, whilest you was talking, I been studyin' 'bout dis thing, let's talk reasonable 'bout did now! Dem Chillen of Israel is powerful poor field hands anyhow and dey done et dere heads off many times over. Dere hardly no rations left in de land for my own people … gwine turn 'em loose!'
"And Moses jus pick up de Peasle Tree staff in his hand and walk on down to his house. And he say, 'Call in all de hands, dig up de Peasle Tree, wrap de roots up in a guana bag and put in one of dese heah Studebaker wagons, hitch four of dem big Missouri mules to it, don' you hitch none of dem shackled in cotton field mules to dat wagon! We's gwine march out of Egypt wid a high hand!'
"And, Brethen and Sistern, de Chillen of Israel all march on down de Red Sea road, right in de middle of de mornin', wid red tassels on de mules' hames, and a New 'Nited States flag flying from de topmost branch of de Peasle Tree, and de Lawd smilin' down on de whole procession!
"And, when dey gets to de Red Sea, de Chillen of Israel look and dey say, 'Moses, ain't no ferry and ain't no ford … how we gwine get across? Now, jus look at de mess you and de Lawn done got us in, jus look at de mess you got us in!'
"And, Moses, he jus cool as de center seed of a cucumber! He wave his hand seven times from de East to de West and de wind blow de leaves of de Peasle Tree, and blow de Red Sea back and de chillen march over on dry foots!
"And when dey get over on de other side, dey look back and dey see de hosts of Egypt followin' 'em and de Chillen of Israel scared and dey huddle 'round Moses like sheeps round a shepherd dog. But Moses, he ain't a'scared and he jus turn 'round and he wave his hand back de other way seven times from de West to de East and de wind blow back thru de leaves of de Peasle Tree, and drown all de hosts of Eqypt!
"And forty days and forty nights de Chillen of Israel dey wander in de wilderness. And one mornin' Moses wake up and he go down to de stables and he see de mules hain't been curried and de Peasle Tree hain't eben been watered! And Moses cuss de stable boys for all dere sorry ways of doin'!
"And den de Chillen of Israel mummer 'gainst Moses and dey say, 'Moses, we's hongry, we ain't had no rations issue us dis month!' And, Moses jus say, 'Go on out dere to de Peasle Tree and eat peasles!' And, Brethen and Sistern, dey pick us twelve baskets of full of good ripe peasles! And 'tis recorded, both in de sacred history and all de profane history, dat dey set down to possum and sweet 'tater wid brown gravy!
"Some folks said dat it was manna dey et in de wilderness. Nothin' t'all but peasles! Some folks said a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of clouds by day guided 'em. Nothin' t'all but jus de moon shinin' on de leaves of de Peasle Tree at night and de shade of de Peasle Tree in de daytime!
"Brethen and Sistern I says unto you, verily, verily in dat last great day, when de Angel Gabriel shall come and de earth is rolled up like de ol' newspaper and cast on de fiery flames to burn, and de sheeps is gathered on de right and de goats is gathered on de left … Brethen and Sistern, in dat day if you 'spects to take yoah place on de right and be told off by Saint Peter whilest you march thru dem Pearly Gates and walk on dem golden streets wearin' dem golden slippers, Brethen and Sistern you must be found wearin' a right smart size bunch of peasle leaves in yoah pocket! Amen!"