GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN JAMES BALDWIN PDF
Go Tell It on the Mountain is James Baldwin's first novel, a shadow-album of lived experience, the lines here being no less real than those on his mother's face. Go Tell it on the Mountain. Home · Go Tell it on the Mountain Author: Baldwin James Go Climb: Read It, Watch It, Do It (GO SERIES). Read more. Get news about Literary Fiction books, authors, and more. “With vivid imagery, with lavish attention to details, Mr. Baldwin has told his feverish story.”. “This is a distinctive book, both realistic and brutal, but a novel of extraordinary sensitivity and poetry.”.
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5 Another Country: James Baldwin at “Home” (and) Abroad. Sion Dayson. 77 .. commonly sung hymns such as “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” which offers this. James Baldwin's autobiographical novel “Go Tell It On The. Mountain” explores the dual role of the Christian church in the lives of African-Americans: It is. Since its original publication in , this first nonfiction collection of essays by James Baldwin remains an American classic. His impassioned essays on life in.
Want to Read. Are you sure you want to remove Go tell it on the mountain from your list? Go tell it on the mountain New Dell ed. Written in English. Edition Notes "A Dell book. A45 G62 The Physical Object Pagination p. Readers waiting for this title: Check nearby libraries with: Share this book Facebook. History Created August 11, 4 revisions Download catalog record: Wikipedia citation Close. Edit Last edited by Sunny Jackson October 16, History 1 edition of Go tell it on the mountain found in the catalog.
October 16, Edited by Sunny Jackson.
November 23, Edited by ImportBot. August 11, Novels about the sins of men often turn out to be novels about the courage of women. Florence says something for all the women in the novel, and for James Baldwin, one suspects, contemplating the fate of the women in his early life, when she looks at the face of Frank.
It began with the birth of Gabriel. Baldwin never got over his religious crisis at the age of fourteen. Baldwin put the essence of all of this into Go Tell it on the Mountain. At the close of the novel she seeks to name the tree by its fruit. And John, who is not strange fruit of that tree, might live to curse all lies and go free into the world.
Baldwin, all his writing, insisted he wrote only from experience. That was the kind of writer he was: he meant every word. Go Tell It on the Mountain is a beautiful, enduring, spiritual song of a novel, a gush of life from a haunted American church.
Like many writers with a religious past, the young man who wrote this novel was stranded in the space between his own body and the body of Christ, and strung between the father he hated and the Father who might offer him salvation. John Grimes finds the beginning of his redemption in the very place where his father lived out his hypocrisy, the church, where Gabriel spawned so much of the trouble in their lives.
He is a contributing editor to the London Review of Books. For My Father and Mother They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall turn and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
And let him that heareth say Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. I looked down the line, And I wondered Everyone had always said that John would be a preacher when he grew up, just like his father. It has been so often that John, without ever thinking about it, had come to believe it himself.
Not until the morning of his fourteenth birthday did he really begin to think about it, and by then it was already too late. His earliest memories—which were in a way, his only memories—were of the hurry and brightness of Sunday mornings.
They all rose together on that day; his father, who did not have to go to work, and led them in prayer before breakfast; his mother, who dressed up on that day, and looked almost young, with her hair straightened, and on her head the closefitting white cap that was the uniform of holy women; his younger brother, Roy, who was silent that day because his father was home. Sarah, who wore a red ribbon in her hair that day, and was fondled by her father.
The church was not very far away, four block up Lenox Avenue, on a corner not far from the hospital. It was to this hospital that his mother had gone when Roy, and Sarah, and Ruth were born. John did not remember very clearly the first time she had gone, to have Roy; folks said that he had cried and carried on the whole time his mother was away; he remembered only enough to be afraid every time her belly began to swell, knowing that each time the swelling began it would not end until she was taken from him, to come back with an stranger.
Each time this happened she became a little more of a stranger herself. She would soon be going away again, Roy said—he knew much more about such things than John. Every Sunday morning, then, since John could remember, they had taken to the Streets, the Grimes family on their way to church.
Sinners along the avenue watched tem— men still wearing their Sunday-night clothes, wrinkled and dusty now, muddy-eyed and muddy-faced; and the women with harsh voices and tight, bright dresses, cigarettes between their finger or held tightly in the corners of their mouths. They talked, and laughed, and fought together, and the women fought like the men. John and Roy, passing these men and women, looked at one another briefly, John embarrassed and Roy amused.
Roy would be like them when he grew up, if the Lord did not change his heart. These men and women they passed on Sunday mornings had spent the night in bars, or in cat houses, or on the streets, or on the rooftops, or under the stairs.
They had been drinking. They had gone from cursing to laughter, to anger, to lust. Once he and Roy had watched a man and woman in the basement of a condemned house. They did it standing up. The woman had wanted fifty cents, and the man had flashed a razor. John had never watched again; he had been afraid. But Roy had watched them many times, and he told John he had done it with some girls down the block.
Their church was called the Temple of the Fire Baptized. It was not the biggest church in Harlem, not yet the smallest, but John had been brought up to believe it was the holiest and best. His father was head deacon in this church—there were only two, the other a round, black man named Deacon Braithwaite—and he took up the collection, and sometimes he preached.
The pastor, Father James, was a genial, well-fed man with a face like a darker moon. It was he who preached on Pentecost Sundays, and led revivals in the summer-time, and anointed and healed the sick. On Sunday mornings and Sunday nights the church was always full; on special Sundays it was full all day.
When he was young, John had paid no attention in Sunday school, and always forgot the golden text, which earned him the wrath of his father. Around the time of his fourteenth birthday, with all the pressures of church and home uniting to drive him to the altar, he strove to appear more serious and therefore less conspicuous.
He was not much older than John, only seventeen, and he was already saved and was a preacher. But he did not follow the lesson, and when, sometimes, Elisha paused to ask John a question, John was ashamed and confused, feeling the palms of his hands become wet and his heart pound like a hammer. Elisha would smile and reprimand him gently, and the lesson would go on.
Roy never knew his Sunday school lesson either, but it was different with Roy—no one really expected of Roy what was expected of John.
When Sunday school service ended there was a short pause before morning service began.
In this pause, if it was good weather, the old folks might step outside a moment to talk among themselves. The sisters would almost always be dressed in white from crown to tow. But sometimes, nervous or perverse, they shouted, or threw hymn-books, or began to cry, putting their parents, men or women of God, under the necessity of proving—by harsh means or tender—who, in a sanctified household, ruled.
The older children, like John or Roy, might wander down the avenue, but not too far. Their father never let John and Roy out of his sight, for Roy had often disappeared between Sunday school and morning service and has not come back all day.
The Sunday morning service began when Brother Elisha sat down at the piano and raised a song. This moment and this music had been with John, so it seemed, since he had first drawn breath. It seemed that there had never been a time when he had not known this moment of waiting while the packed church paused—the sisters in white, heads raised, the brothers in blue, heads back; the white caps of the women seeming to glow in the charged air like crowns, the kinky, gleaming heads of the men seeming to be lifted up—and the rustling and the whispering ceased and the children were quiet; perhaps someone coughed, or the sound of a car horn, or a curse from the streets came in; the Elisha hit the keys, beginning at once to sing, and everybody joined him, clapping their hands, and rising, and beating the tambourines.
The song might be: Down at the cross where my Savior died! Or: Lord, hold my hand while I run this race! They sang with all the strength that was in them, and clapped their hands for joy. There had never been a time when John had not sat watching the saints rejoice with terror in his heart, and wonder. Their singing caused him to believe in the presence of the Lord; indeed, it was no longer a question of belief, because they made that presence real.
He did not feel it himself, the joy they felt, yet he could not doubt that it was, for them, the very bread of life—could not doubt it, that is, until it was too late to doubt. Something happened to their faces and their voices, the rhythm of their bodies, and to the air they breathed; it was as though wherever they might be became the upper room, and the Holy Ghost were riding on the air.
His mother, her eyes raised to heaven, hands arked before her, moving, made real for John that patience, that endurance, that long suffering, which he had read of in the Bible and found so hard to imagine. On Sunday mornings the women all seemed patient, all the men seemed mighty. While John watched, the Power struck someone, a man or woman; they cried out, a long, wordless crying, and, arms outstretched like wings, they began the Shout.
Someone moved a chair a little to give them room, the rhythm paused, the singing stopped, only the pounding feet and the clapping hands were heard; then another cry, another dancer; then the tambourines began again, and the voices rose again, and the music swept on again, like fire, or flood, or judgment. Then the church seemed to swell with the Power it held, and, like a planet rocking in space, the temple rocked with the Power of God.
John watched, watched the faces, and the weightless bodies, and listened to the timeless cries. One day, so everyone said, this Power would possess him; he would sing and cry as they did now, and dance before his King. He watched young Ella Mae Washington, the seventeen-year-old granddaughter of Praying Mother Washington, as she began to dance.
And then Elisha danced. At one moment, head thrown back, eyes closed, sweat standing on his brow, he sat at the piano, singing and playing; and then, like a great black cat in trouble in the jungle, he stiffened and trembled, and cried out. Jesus, Jesus, oh Lord Jesus! He struck on the piano one last wild note, and threw up his hands, palms upward, stretched wide apart. The tambourines raced to fill the vacuum left by his silent piano, and his cry drew answering cries. Then he was on his feet, turning, blind, his face congested, contorted with this rage, and the muscles leaping ands swelling in his long, dark neck.
It seemed that he could not breathe, that his body could not contain this passion, that he would be, before their eyes, dispersed into the waiting air. His hand, rigid to the very fingertips, moved outward and back against his hips, his sightless eyes looked upward, and he began to dance.
And so, for a while, in the centre of the dancers, head down, fists beating, on, on, unbearably, until it seemed the walls of the church would fall for very sound; and then, in a moment, with a cry, head up, arms high in the air, sweat pouring from his forehead, and all his body dancing as though it would never stop. Sometimes he did not stop until he fell—until he dropped like some animal felled by a hammer—moaning, on his face.
And then a great moaning filled the church. There was sin among them. One Sunday, when regular service was over, Father James had uncovered sin in the congregation of the righteous. He had uncovered Elisha and Ella Mae. Elisha hung his head as Father James spoke, and the congregation murmured. And Ella Mae was not so beautiful now as she was when she was singing and testifying, but looked like a sullen, ordinary girl. Her full lips were loose and her eyes were black—with shame, or rage, or both.
Her grandmother, who had raised her, sat watching quietly, with folded hands. She was one of the pillars of the church, a powerful evangelist and very widely known. It was not an easy thing, said Father James, to be the pastor of a flock. It might look easy to just sit up there in the pulpit night after night, year in, year out, but let them remember the awful responsibility placed on his shoulders by almighty God—let them remember that God would ask an accounting of him one day for every soul in his flock.
Let them remember this when they though he was hard, let them remember that the Word was hard, that the way of holiness was a hard way.
Let the church cry amen to this! For he knew them to be sincere young people, dedicate to the service of the Lord—it was only that, since they were young, they did not know the pitfall Satan laid for the unwary. He knew that sin was not in their minds—not yet; yet sin was in the flesh; and should they continue with their walking out alone together, their secrets and laughter, and touching of hands, they would surely sin a sin beyond all forgiveness. And John wondered what Elisha was thinking—Elisha , who was tall and handsome, who played basket-ball, and who had been saved at the age of eleven in the improbable fields down south.
Had he sinned? Had he been tempted? And the girl beside him, whose white robes now seemed the merest, thinnest covering for the nakedness of breasts and insistent thighs—what was her face like when she was alone with Elisha, with no singing, when they were not surrounded by the saints? He was afraid to think of it, yet he could think of nothing else; and the fever of which they stood accused began also to rage him. After this Sunday Elisha and Ella Mae no longer met each other each day after school, no longer spent Saturday afternoons wandering through Central Park, or lying on the beach.
All that was over for them. If they came together again it would be in wedlock.
Go tell it on the mountain
They would have children and raise them in the church. This was what was meant by a holy life, this was what the way of the cross demanded. It was somehow on that Sunday, a Sunday shortly before his birthday, that John first realized that this was the life awaiting him—realized it consciously, as something no longer far off, but imminent, coming closer day by day.
He awoke on this birthday morning with the feeling that there was menace in the air around him—that something irrevocable had occurred in him. He stared at a yellow stain on the ceiling just above his head. Roy was still smothered in the bedclothes, and his breath came and went with a small, whistling sound. There was no other sound anywhere; no one in the house was up. Roy stirred again and John pushed him away, listening to the silence. On other mornings he awoke hearing his mother singing in the kitchen, hearing his father in the bedroom behind him grunting and muttering prayers to himself as he put on his clothes; hearing, perhaps, the chatter of Sarah and the squalling of Ruth, and the radios, the clatter of pots and pans, and the voices of all the folk nearby.
This morning not even the cry of a bedspring disturbed the silence, and John seemed, therefore, to be listening to his own unspeaking doom.
He could believe, almost, that he had awakened late on that great gettingup morning; that all the saved had been transformed in the twinkling of an eye, and had risen to meet Jesus in the clouds, and that he was left, with his sinful body, to be bound in hell a thousand years.
He had sinned. In spite of the saints, his mother and his father, the warning he had heard from his earliest beginnings, he had sinned with his hands a sin that was hard to forgive. In the school lavatory, alone, thinking of the boys, older, bigger, braver, who made bets with each other as to whose urine could arch higher, he had watched in himself a transformation of which he would never dare to speak. It was like his thoughts as he moved about the tabernacle in which his life had been spent; the tabernacle hated, yet loved and feared.
It was like all this, and it was like the walls that witnessed and the placards on the walls which testified that the wages of sin was death. For he had made his decision. For John excelled in school, though not, like Elisha, in mathematics or basket-ball, and it was said that he had a Great Future. He might become a Great Leader of His People. In this world John, who was, his father said, ugly, who was always the smallest boy in his class, and who had no friends, became immediately beautiful, tall, and popular.
People fell all over themselves to meet John Grimes. He was a poet, or a college president, or a movie star; he drank expensive whisky, and he smoke Lucky Strike cigarettes in the green package. It was not only colored people who praised John, since they could not, John felt, in any case really know; but white people also said it, in fact had said it first and said it still.
It was when John was five years old and in the first grade that he was first noticed; and since he was noticed by an eye altogether alien and impersonal, he began to perceive, in wild uneasiness, his individual existence. They were learning the alphabet that day, and six children at a time were sent to the blackboard to write the letters they had memorized.
Then he realized, by the immobility of the other children and by the way they avoided looking at him, that it was he who was selected for punishment. On the edge of tears, he mumbled his name and waited. The principal, a woman with white hair and an iron face, looked down at him. That moment gave him, from that time on, if not a weapon at least a shield; he apprehended totally, without belief or understanding, that he had in himself a power that other people lacked; that he could use this to save himself, to raise himself; and that, perhaps, with this power he might one day win that love which he so longed for.
This was not, in John, a faith subject to death or alteration, nor yet a hope subject to destruction; it was his identity, and part, therefore, of that wickedness for which his father beat him and to which he clung in order to withstand his father.
It was his hatred and his intelligence that he cherished, the one feeding the other. He lived for the day when his father would be dying and he, John, would curse him on his death-bed. In the midst of all his wonderings he fell asleep again, and when he woke up this time and got out of bed his father had gone to the factory, where he would work for half a day.
Roy was sitting in the kitchen, quarrelling with their mother. The baby, Ruth, sat in her high chair banging on the tray with an oatmeal-covered spoon. This meant that she was in a good mood; she would not spend the day howling, for reasons known only to herself, allowing no one but her mother to touch her.
Their mother, her head tied up in an old rag, sipped black coffee and watched Roy. The pale end-of-winter sunlight filled the room and yellowed all their faces; and John, drugged and morbid and wondering how it was that he had slept again and had been allowed to sleep so long, saw them for a moment like figures on a screen, an effect that the yellow light intensified.
The room was narrow and dirty; nothing could alter its dimensions, no labor could ever make it clean. Dirt was in the walls and the floorboards, and triumphed beneath the sink where the cockroaches spawned; was in the fine ridges of the pots and pans, scoured daily, burnt black on the bottom, hanging above the stove; was in the wall against which they hung, and revealed itself where the paint had cracked and leaned outward in stiff squares and fragments, the paper-thin underside webbed with black.
Dirt was in every corner, angle, crevice of the monstrous stove, and lived behind it in delirious communion with the corrupted wall. Dirt was in the baseboard that John scrubbed every Sunday, and roughened the cupboard shelves that held the cracked and gleaming dishes. Under this dark weight the walls leaned, under it the ceiling, with a great crack like lightning in its center, sagged.
The windows gleamed like beaten gold or silver, but now John saw, in the yellow light, how fine dust veiled their doubtful glory. Dirt crawled in the gray mop hung out of the windows to dry. John thought with shame and horror, yet in angry hardness of heart: He who is filthy, let him be filthy still. Then he looked at his mother, seeing, as though she were someone else, the dark, hard lines running downward from her eyes, and the deep, perpetual scowl in her forehead, and the downturned, tightened mouth, and the strong, thin, brown, and bony hands; and the phrase turned against him like a two-edged sword, for was it not he, in his false pride and his evil imagination, who was filthy?
He face became the face that he gave her in his dreams, the face that had been hers in a photograph he had seen once, long ago, a photograph taken before he was born.
This face was young and proud, uplifted, with a smile that made the wide mouth beautiful and glowed in the enormous eyes. It was the face of a girl who knew that no evikl could undo her, and who could laugh, surely, as his mother did not laugh now.
Between the two faces there stretched a darkness and a mystery that John feared, and that sometimes caused him to hate her.
He moved to the table and sat down, feeling the most bewildering panic of his life, a need to touch things, the table and chairs and the walls of the room, to make certain that the room existed and that he was in the room. He did not look at his mother, who stood up and went to the stove to heat his breakfast.
Roy was not in a good mood. Then his plate was put before him: hominy grits and a scrap of bacon. Right on, Mister Man, till somebody puts a knife in you, or takes you off to jail! We so lucky to have a father who just wants us to go to church and read the Bible and beller like a fool in front of the altar and stay home all nice and quiet, like a little mouse. Boy, we sure is lucky, all right.
He felt that her words, after the strange fashion God sometimes chose to speak to men, were dictated by Heaven and were meant for him. He was fourteen—was it too lat? And thus uneasiness was reinforced by the impression, which at that moment he realized had been his all along, that his mother was not saying everything she meant. What, he wondered, did she say to Aunt Florence when they talked together?
Or to his father? What were her thoughts? Her face would never tell. And yet, looking down at him in a moment that was like a secret, passing sign, her face did tell him. Her thoughts were bitter. You ought to know better than that, Ma. You going to find it out, too, one day. You go on, hardhead. You going to come to grief.
Go Tell it on the Mountain
Is he, boy? And you going to do it, too, before you set foot out of this house. After I do it, can I go? You better do it right. She had forgotten about his birthday. He swore he would not mention it. He would not think about it any more. John hated sweeping this carpet, for dust rose, clogging his nose and sticking to his sweaty skin, and he felt that should be sweep it for ever, the clouds of dust would not diminish, the rug would not be clean.
It became in his imagination his impossible, lifelong task, his hard trial, like that of a man he had read about somewhere, whose curse it was to push a boulder up a steep hill, only to have the giant who guarded the hill roll the boulder down again—and so on, for ever, throughout eternity; he was still out there, that hapless man, somewhere at the other end of the earth, pushing his boulder up the hill.
Yet for each dustpan he so laboriously filled at the door-still demons added to the rug twenty more; he saw in the expanse behind him the dust that he had raised settling again into the carpet; and he gritted his teeth, already on edge because of the dust that filled his mouth, and nearly wept to thinl that so much labor brought so little reward.
Thinking bitterly of his birthday, he attacked the mirror with the cloth, watching his face appear as out of a cloud.
With a shock he saw that his face had not changed, that the hand of Satan was as yet invisible. In the eye there was a light that was not the light of Heaven, and the mouth trembled, lustful and lewd, to drink deep of the wines of Hell.
He stared at his face as though it were, as indeed it soon appeared to be, the face of a stranger, a stranger who held secrets that John could never know. And, having thought of it as the face of a stranger, he tried to look at it as a stranger might, and tried to discover what other people saw.
These details did not help him, for the principle of their unity was undiscoverable, and he could not tell what he most passionately desired to know: whether his face was ugly or not. And he dropped his eyes to the mantelpiece, lifting one by one the objects that adorned it.
The mantelpiece held, in brave confusion, photographs, greeting cards, flowered mottoes, two silver candlesticks that held no candles, and a green metal serpent, poised to strike.
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To-day in his apathy John stared at them, not seeing; he began to dust them with exaggerated care of the profoundly preoccupied. And the other, in letters of fire against a background of gold, stated: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John iii, 16 These somewhat unrelated sentiments decorated either side of the mantelpiece, obscured a little by the silver candlesticks.
Between these two extremes, the greeting cards, received year after year, on Christmas, or Easter, or birthdays, trumpeted their glad tidings; while the green metal serpent, perpetually malevolent, raised its head proudly in the midst of these trophies, biding the time to strike. Against the mirror, like a procession, the photographs were arranged.
These photographs were the true antiques of the family, which seemed to feel that a photograph should commemorate only the most distant past. The photographs of John and Roy, and of the two girls, which seemed to violate this unspoken law, served only in fact to prove it most iron-hard: they had all been taken in infancy, a time and a condition that the children could not remember. John in this photograph lat naked on a white counterpane, and people laughed and said that it was cunning.
But John could never look at it without feeling shame and anger that his nakedness should be here so unkindly revealed. When people looked at these photograph and laughed, their laughter differ from the laughter with which they greeted the naked John. Sometimes, when she came to visit, she called the photograph to witness that she had indeed been beautiful in her youth.
There was a photograph of his mother, not the one John liked and had seen only once, but one taken immediately after her marriage. And there was a photograph of his father, dressed in black, sitting on a country porch with his hands folded heavily in his lap. He stared into the sun, head raised, unbearable, and though it had been taken when he was young, it was not the face of a young man; only something archaic in the dress indicated that this photograph had been taken long ago.
At the time this picture was taken, Aunt Florence said, he was already a preacher, and had a wife who was now in Heaven. That he had been a preacher at that time was not astonishing, for it was impossible to imagine that he had ever been anything else; but that he had had a wife in the so distant past who was now dead filled John with wonder by no means pleasant. If she had lived, John thought, then he would never have come North and met his mother. And this shadowy woman, dead so many years, whose name he knew had been Deborah, held in the fastness of her tomb, it seemed to John, the key to all those mysteries he so longed to unlock.In this world John, who was, his father said, ugly, who was always the smallest boy in his class, and who had no friends, became immediately beautiful, tall, and popular.
Is he, boy? Not until the morning of his fourteenth birthday did he really begin to think about it, and by then it was already too late.
Roy was not in a good mood. Their battle never ended; they never bought a home. It dominated all, the pulpit: A Rap on Race. Du Bois, W.
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