The Melancholy of a Child: Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
Also known as "Motherless Child," this hymn tugs at the heartstrings as it puts into words and melody the sorrow and hurtful reality of a people. The hymn is short, with the most extended version at three stanzas with four lines while others have two stanzas with four lines.
The hymn' major theme is separation, and in a more implied presentation, slavery. The hymn's point of view is a child of color in a slave auction. The words imply that he or she is taken away from the mother to be sold to another owner. The phrase "motherless child" evokes the painful separation from family and the natural bond between mother and child. The last lines in both stanzas is a reminder of departure. In both last lines, there is severing the ties of the person to a place he/she considers 'home". In this scenario, "home" can be anything – country, house, land, or even the living realm. While the theme of separation dominates the hymn, it is subverted by the presence of the word 'sometimes.' The word shows temporary or fleeting instances of separation.
All lines in the hymns are repeated. Repetition is evident in the first three lines of the first stanza (Sometimes I feel like a motherless child) and second stanza (Sometimes I feel like I'm almost gone). Another point of repetition is the last line for both stanzas (And a long, long way from home, a long way from home). Repetition is a tool for many works to imply and reinforce the line/s' meaning and significance. In this case, the emphasis is given to each part of the hymn and the theme that surrounds it.
The hymn has no credited lyricist or composer. Despite the lack of information about its origins, this hymn is a favorite and often covered by people with color.