The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Virgin Most Pure

For Christmas

Words and Music: English Traditional

Source for Text: Elizabeth Poston, The Second Penguin Book of Carols (1970), Carol 1, p. 36.

See: In Bethlehem City - Notes

1. A Virgin most pure,1 as the prophets foretold,
Should bring forth a Savior which now we behold.
To be our redeemer from death, hell and sin,
Which Adam's transgression involved us in.

Chorus
Then let us be Merry, cast Sorrow away,
Our Saviour, Christ Jesus, was born on this Day.

2. Through Bethlehem city in Jewry it was,
That Joseph and Mary together did pass;
And for to be taxed when thither they came,2
Since Caesar Augustus commanded the same.
Chorus. Then let us be Merry, &c.

3. But Mary's full time being come, as we find,
She brought forth her first born to serve3 all mankind:
The inn being full, for4 this heavenly guest,
No Place there was found for to lay him to rest.
Chorus. Then let us be Merry, &c.

4. But Mary, blest Mary, so meek and so mild,
Soon wrapped up in swaddlings5 this heavenly Child,
Contented she laid him where oxen did feed:
The great God of nature approved of the deed.
Chorus. Then let us be Merry, &c.

5. Then presently after, the shepherds did spy
Vast numbers of angels to stand in the sky;
So merrily talking, so sweet they did6 sing,
All glory and praise to our heavenly King.
Chorus. Then let us be Merry, &c.

Footnote.

These lyrics are almost identical with those printed in John Arnold, The Compleat Psalmodist. The Third Edition. (London: Robert Brown, 1753), Part IV, "A Set of Divine Hymns," pp. 5-6. Only seven words were different. The differences from Arnold:

1. Arnold has "unspotted" instead of "most pure", and "Prophet" instead of "prophets."

2.  Arnold has "came" instead of "come."

3.  Arnold has "save" instead of "serve"

4.  Arnold has "where" instead of "for"

5. Arnold has "Swaddling" instead of "swaddlings."

6. Arnold has "do" instead of "did."

Dr. Poston stated that her sources for the verses were:

For a setting of the score by William Knapp (1753), see Elizabeth Poston, The Second Penguin Book of Carols (1970), Carol 1, pp. 34-36. Dr. Poston's notes on the carol occur on p. 21.

Although Dr. Poston indicated that the source for verse 1 was Wyeth's Second, a check of the sheet music indicates that the words in Wyeth for the first verse were:

A virgin unspotted, the prophets foretold,
Should bring forth a Saviour, whom now we behold.
To be our Redeemer from death, hell and sin,
Which Adam's transgression involved us in.

Sheet Music "Christmas Hymn" by William Knapp (1753) from The Hesperian Harp (1848), #275.

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