I found this sentence today -

Billy sang another hymn. He shoveled and paced to the time of the music.

Context -

Billy was confined in darkness in the mine. He was shoveling musk in a coal mine, at a section where no one was around. While doing his work, suddenly his safety lamp went out. He was in complete darkness. He didn't know the way to go back, and most scary he couldn't see due to such darkness. So he started to feel scared. And in order to cheer him up, he started to think Jesus was around to take care of him. And he started to sing, the hymn.

I can't understand the meaning of the bold part of the sentence. Pleas help me.

  • 1
    An aside: He was probably shoveling muck, a dirty, messy substance, rather than musk, a substance with a strong, masculine scent derived from the glands of a type of deer. Nov 6, 2014 at 18:45
  • To pace here means to walk. Earlier the author uses paces as a noun, which means steps. The author says He got into a rythym when he had to walk further and further. See my other comment under the answer by Kreiri.
    – user6951
    Nov 6, 2014 at 23:12
  • This youtube video shows black prisoners working to the time/beat of their own hymn-singing. This matches what Billy is doing in the mine.
    – user6951
    Nov 6, 2014 at 23:33

1 Answer 1


It means that he matched his movements to the tempo of the song he sang.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/time :

12. Music
a. The meter of a musical pattern: three-quarter time.
b. The rate of speed at which a piece of music is played; the tempo.

  • 2
    Instead of "time", the word "beat" could also have been used, which might be more widely recognized these days.
    – Hellion
    Nov 6, 2014 at 19:21

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