The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Truth Sent From Above

from the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. 4, No. 14 (June, 1910)

Source: Ella M. Leather, Lucy E. Broadwood, A. G. Gilchrist, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frances Tolmie and Cecil J. Sharp, eds., "Carols from Herefordshire," Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. 4, No. 14 (June, 1910), pp. 3-51. Published by: English Folk Dance + Song Society. Article Stable URL:

Carol #5. "The Truth Sent From Above," p. 17.

Noted by R. Vaughan Williams. Dorian mode. Sung by Mr. W. Jenkins, at King's Pyon, July 1909.

1. This is the truth sent from above,
The truth of God, the God of love;
Therefore don’t turn me from your door,
But hearken all both rich and poor.

2. The first thing which I do relate,
Is That God did man create
The next thing which to you I tell,
Woman was made with man to dwell.

3. Then after this was God’s own choice
To place them both in Paradise,
There to remain from evil free
Except they eat of such a tree.

4. But they did eat, which was a sin,
And thus their ruin did begin —
Ruin'd themselves, both you and me,
And all of their posterity.

5. Thus we were as* ? to endless woes,
Till God the Lord did interpose
And so a promise soon did run
That He would redeem us by His Son.

Footnote: * ?heirs

"This is one of the carols "now annually published" according to Hone (1823). For references to similar tunes see notes to "The Man that lives" [pp. 15-16] in this Journal." L.E.B.

"The following Welsh hymn-tune "Dorcas" seems to be a more rambling and florid form of the above carol-tune, possibly adapted to a repeating refrain. I have substituted notation of half the value, that the rhythm may be more easily grasped." - A.G.G.

Note: At the top of page 18 is sheet music for the tune identified as "Dorcas."

Sheet Music from the Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. 4, No. 14 (June, 1910), pp. 17-18.

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They also wrote that for a variant of the tune see "There is a Fountain" in the JFSS IV, pp. 21-22.

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It was noted that although this song is about the Crucifixion, it was a favorite of Herefordshire singers during the Christmas-tide. See: There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood-Cowper. It was not uncommon for carols to deal with all of Christ's life, including his death and resurrection, in carols sung during the Christmas-tide.

The authors referred us to "The Man That Lives" for examples of similar tunes. The following is from pages 15-16 of the same article:

Carol #4. "The Man That Lives." pp. 15-16. Two tunes noted. The first, identified as Dorian (with a question mark following) and noted by R. Vaughan Williams, was sung by Mrs. Wheeler at Weobley, June, 1909. The second, identified as Ćolian and noted by R. Vaughan Williams, was sung by Mr. W. Jenkins, Ledgemoor, King's Pyon, July, 1909.

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The first verse is given to see the meter and rhythm of the text:

The man that lives must learn to die,
     Christ will no longer stay,
Our time is short as near at hand
     To take our lives away.

Note: the meter for this song is 86 86. However, the meter for "The Truth Sent From Above" is 88 88.

The text continues:

Mrs. Wheeler's tune and the above text were learnt in her youth as her home in the Bromyard district, near the Worcestershire border. The first tune being a variant of that to "The Carnal and the Crane" [see pp. 22-25 in this article] suggests that possibly morbid puritanical words have in this instance supplanted an older legendary ballad. — E.M.L.

Below this comment is this text:

Cf. the first tune with the "Psalm Tune" in Journal, Vol. iii, p. 45.

Cf. the second tune with "Cold Blows the Wind" in the Songs of the West, "Searching for Lambs" in Folk-Songs from Somerset, "The Mermaid," Journal, Vol. iii, p. 47, "The Cruel Mother," ibid, p. 70, and the Staffordshire colliers' carol, Journal, Vol. ii, p. 126, besides the tunes to "The Carnal and the Crane," [pp. 22-25] "The Holy Well," [pp. 26-28] "This is the Truth," [pp. 17-18] "The Sinner's Dream," [pp. 18-20] and "There is a Fountain" [pp. 21-22] in this Journal. All belong to a type of tune met with very often amongst traditional songs. The well-known "How should I your true Love know" seems to belong to this type, which, as Miss Gilchrist also notices, has points in common with the psalm-tune "Coleshill" (see her note on "The Sinner's Dream.") "All you that live must learn to die" is on Hone's list of carols "now annually printed" in 1823." — L.E.B.

For Hone’s list from 1823, see: Christmas Carols now annually Printed.

Carol #6, "The Sinner's Dream," pp. 18-20.

Noted by A. M. Webb and R. Vaughan Williams. AEolian. Sung by W. Colcombe (Aged 80), at Weobley, 1906 and 1909.

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Note: Two additional stanzas occur at the top of page. 20. The text then continues:

The tune, equally with another variant, "The Truth sent from above" in this Journal, [pp. 17-18] is reminiscent of the old psalm-tune "Coleshill" (Barton's Psalms, 1644), still known in Scotland, and set to psalms of a penitential or gloomy character. A traditional version of "Coleshill" was sent to me lately, as sung to a funeral verse (taken from the English metrical psalms) by a "whole race of sextons" in a North-country village, during the passage of the funeral from the churchyard gate to the church door. I am inclined to suspect a connection between "Coleshill" and "How should I your true Love know?" In any case, "Coleshill" may have been founded on a folk-air, whether or not there be any significance in its being named after a Warwickshire village." — A.G.G.

 "Coleshill," From Church Praise, pp. 20-21.

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"One night as slumbering I lay" is on Hone's list of carols still printed in 1823. For references to similar tunes see note to "The Man that lives," in this Journal.

— L.E.B.

The words are a good example of a "revivalist" hymn set to a genuine folk-tune. The various versions of the tune here given are splendid examples of the way a good folk-singer will vary his tune to fit different metres. The "norm" of the tune, in my opinion, is that given to verse 7. — R.V.W.

7. "Then if his name be there,
So sweetly him I bless;
His sins I'll wash away,
And his soul with Me shall rest."


Other songs and notes mentioned in this article.

There was also mention made about a chap-book from 1847 that contained a reference to a tune to "The Seven Virgins," which, they wrote, was the first reference to a tune for this carol. The chapbook in question was A Good Christmas Box, while the reference to the tune was made in the 2007 reprinting by Michael Raven; see The Seven Virgins, or The Leaves Of Life.


The sixteen verses in A Good Christmas Box (1847) are in this file, The Truth Sent From Above, which also contains the complete notes for this carol.

For the version by Cecil J. Sharp from English Folk-Carols (1911), see: The Truth Sent From Above.

For the version from Herefordshire printed in the JFSS (1910), and used by R. Vaughan Williams in Eight Traditional English Carols (1919), see: The Truth Sent From Above - R. Vaughan Williams.

There is another version, consisting of five verses, which appeared in the Oxford Book of Carols, and was later incorporated into 100 Carols for Choirs. The verses were 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 from A Good Christmas Box. There was an unfortunate juxtaposition of the last line of the second verse and the first line of the third verse (the original fifth verse). See: The Truth from Above - Oxford Book of Carols.

For the texts from two Broadsides that I've found, see: This Is The Truth - Broadside Comparisons.

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