Free At Last Comprehension Task

Free At Last

Introduction

Although the original composer behind “Free at Last” is unknown, the lyrics evoke a tremendous sense of hope despite the horrendous experiences of black slaves living in America. Published in John W. Work’s (1940) comprehensive collection of 250 spirituals, the hymn gained prominence when Martin Luther King referenced it in his famous “I have a dream” speech.

Free At Last

Way down yonder in the graveyard walk,
I thank God I’m free at last,
Me and my Jesus goin’ to meet and talk
I thank God I’m free at last, O [Refrain]

Ona my knees when the light passed by,
I thank God I’m free at last.
Thought my soul would rise and fly
I thank God I’m free at last, O [Refrain]

Some of these mornings, bright and fair,
I thank God I’m free at last,
Goin’ meet King Jesus in the air,
I thank God I’m free at last, O [Refrain]

Refrain:
Free at last, free at last;
I thank God I’m free at last;
Free at last, Free at last,
I thank God I’m free at last.

Musicality

Rhythm is one of the most important aspects of poetry that distinguishes it from other forms of writing, especially since a lot of poems are supposed to be sung and even accompanied by music.

First, we are going to consider the rhyme scheme of “Free at Last”.

When you are asked to identify the rhyme scheme of a poem, you should focus on the final sounds of each line. If you look at the first verse, “walk” and “talk” are obvious rhymes. The writer also repeats “last” in lines two and four. You should label the sounds in the following manner:

Free at Last Rhyme Scheme

In this example, the letter “a” represents the “alk” sound at the end of lines one and three. The letter “b” represents the “ast” sound on the other two lines. This gives the opening verse an abab rhyme scheme. This is known as alternate rhyme because every other line rhymes.

However, suggest why the writer repeats the word “last” at the end of so many lines?

What are the end-rhymes of the other two verses? If you have a printed copy of the poem, you should label the lines with the letters “a” and “b”.

Call and Response

The call-and-response technique is an important part of African-American music, especially in the gospel tradition. The pastor would “call” out a phrase and the congregation would offer their “response”. In this poem, the first and third lines serve as the “call”, which is then “answered” by the phrase “I thank God I’m free at last”.

It is a terrific way to engage the audience and include them in the service. Since the lines are easy to remember, it also allows anyone who is unable to read or write to join the performance.

Listen to the following version of “Free at Last” and you will appreciate the energy and power of this particular form of composition.

Writing Task

The writer also divides the poem into verses with four lines each. These are known as quatrains.

Try writing a fourth quatrain for this poem. Make sure lines two and four continue with “I thank God I’m free at last”.

Song Sheet

Free At Last Hymn Sheet

Learn More

Thanks for reading!