The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Whan No Thing Was But God Alone

Words and Music: Traditional English

Source: Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols Now First Printed, From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (London: The Percy Society, 1847), Song #25, printed verbatim from a manuscript probably owned by a professional musician, and apparently written in the latter half of the fifteenth century, circa 1471-1485.

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    Why, why, what is this whi, but virtus verbi Domini.

Whan no thing was but God alone,
The fader, the holy gost, with the son,
On was iij., and iij. was on;
          What is this why?
To frayn why I hold but foly,
It is non other sertenly,
But virtus verbi Domini.


Fiat was a word ful bold.
That mad all thyng as he wold,
Heven and erth and men of mold.
          What is why?
To fryn why I hold but foly, etc.

The warld gan wax and multiply;
The planetes made he full besy,
To rowllychy thyng by and by.
          What is why?
To fryn why I hold but foly, etc.

The planetes wark no thyng in veyn,
But as thei be ordend so mush thei reygne;
For the word of God wyl not ageyne.
          What is why?
To fryn why I hold but foly, etc.

Whan Bede had prechyd to the stonys dry,
The my3t of God made hem to cry.
Amen: certys this is no ly.
          What is why?
To fryn why I hold but foly, etc.

Herytykes wonder of this thyng most,
How God is put in the holy host,
Her and at Rome and in every cost.
          What is why?
To fryn why I hold but foly, etc.

Note from Wright concerning Verse 5, Line 1:
Bede. An allusion to rather an absurd legend relating to Bede, which was popular at the time these songs were written.

From The Golden Legend (or "Lives of the Saints," compiled by Jacobus de Voragine), concerning Bede:

"... for [in] his old age he was blind, and he had one that led him by towns and castles, whereas he preached the world of our Lord in every place, and on a time he led him by a valley full of great stones, and his leader mocking him said that there were assembled much people that were still for to hear his prediction. And then began he to preach much ardently, and at the last end he concluded with: Per omnia secula seculorum, and anon the stones answered with a high voice: Amen, our honourable father...." [From "The Life of Saint Pelagius"]

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