The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Virgin Most Pure

For Christmas

Words and Music: English Traditional
Roud Number: 1378

Source: Broadside Harding B 11(3920) (Bod12291 at the Bodleian Library)

Printed by Wilkins, Printer, Derby, date unknown.

See: In Bethlehem City - Notes

1. A Virgin most pure, as the Prophets did tell,
Should bring forth a young son, as it hath befell,
To be our Redeemer from death, hell and sin,
Which Adam’s transgression had wrapt in.

Therefore be merry, and therefore be merry,
Rejoice and be merry, set sorrow aside;
For Christ our Savior was born on this tide.

2. In Bethlehem, a city in Jewry it was,
Where Joseph and Mary together did pass,
And there to be taxed with many did go,
For Cæsar himself had ordered it so.
        And therefore, &c.

3. And when they had enter'd the city so fair,
Vast numbers of people so mighty were there,
That Joseph and Mary, whose Substance was small
Could get in the inn no lodging at all.
        And therefore, &c.

4. They were constrain'd in the stable to lie,
Where horses and oxen they used to tie;
Which lodging, tho' poor they took in no scorn,
But the next morning Our Saviour was born.
        And therefore, &c.

5. The King of Glory to this world was brought,
Small store of fine linen to wrap him was brought,
But when she had swaddled her young son so sweet,
Within an oxes manger she laid him complete.
        And therefore, &c.

6. Then God sent his angel from heaven so high,
To certain poor shepherds in fields where they lie,
Who bade them no longer in sorrow to stay,
For Christ our Saviour was born on this day.
        And therefore, &c.

7. Then presently after the shepherds did spy
Great numbers of angels to stand in the sky;
Who joyfully talked and sweetly did sing,
To God be all glory, our Heavenly King.
        And therefore, &c.

Broadside from the Bodleian Library

Harding_B_11_3920-04848.jpg (251952 bytes)


The source for this text is Broadside Harding B 11(3920) (Bod12291 at the Bodleian Library). It was printed by J. Catnach, 2 Monmouth Court, 7 Dials, between 1813 and 1838. The headline on his broadside is "Two New Christmas Carols" (this link is to the image at the Bodleian Library). This is the second carol on this broadside. The first carol is another variant of the original,  “Rejoice and be merry, set sorrow aside.” Catnach was a major publisher of Christmas broadsides.

Another Broadside with this version of the carol can also be found at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It is Broadside Johnson Ballads 1365. Printed and Sold in Aldermary Church Yard, London ca. 1770; no printer's name is identified on the broadside, but based on the date, possibly the firm of Cluer Dicey and Richard Marshall. The headline on his broadside is "Three New Christmas Carols" (this link is to the image at the Bodleian Library). "A Virgin Most Pure" is Carol #2 of 3 carols on this broadside. The three were:

I. Rejoice and be merry, set sorrow aside.

II. A Virgin most pure, as the Prophets did tell. (This file)

III. Christmas now is drawing near at Hand.

Johnson Ballads 1365

Johnson Ballads 1365-21096.jpg (1226210 bytes)

Note: Cluer Dicey and Co. operated from 1736 to 1770, with William Dicey until 1757, and with Richard Marshall from 1764-1770. Richard Marshall would operate ca. 1720 until 1779. John Marshall was in business in 1800, but I haven't determined the span of years, or the relationship, if any, to Richard Marshall.

The broadsides containing this carol on this website, with slightly different lyrics, include:

And see: A Virgin Most Pure - Sandys, 1833 and In Bethlehem City - R.V. Williams.

The ten new texts added from Bodleian Library, Roud Number 1378, plus broadsides with the phrase “A Virgin Most Pure,” “A Virgin Unspotted,” or “In Bethlehem City.” These links are to the Bodleian Library:

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