The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Virgin Most Pure

For Christmas

Words and Music: English Traditional
Roud Number: 1378

See: In Bethlehem City - Notes

Source: William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833), pp. 61-2.

1. A virgin most pure, as the Prophets do tell,
Hath brought forth a Babe, as it hath befell,
To be our Redeemer from death, hell and sin,
Which by Adamís transgression hath wrapt us all in.

Rejoice, and be you merry, set sorrow aside,
Christ Jesus our Saviour was born on this tide.

2. In Bethlehem city, in Jury it was,
Where Joseph and Mary together did pass,
And there to be taxed, with many one more,
For Cśsar commanded the same should be so. Refrain

3. But, when they had entered the city so far
The number of people so mighty was there,
That Joseph and Mary, whose substance was small,
Could get in the city no lodging at all. Refrain

4. Then were they constrained in a stable to lie,
Where oxen and asses they used to tie;
Their lodging so simple, they held it no scorn,
But against the next morning our Saviour was born. Refrain

5. The King of all Glory to this world being brought,
Small store of fine linen to wrap him was brought;
When Mary had swaddled her young Son so sweet,
Within an ox manger she laid him to sleep. Refrain

6. Then God sent an Angel from Heaven so high,
To certain poor Shepherds in fields where they lie,
And bid them no longer in sorrow to stay,
Because that our Saviour was born on this day. Refrain

7. Then presently after, the Shepherds did spy
A number of Angels appear in the sky,
Who joyfully talked, and sweetly did sing,
To God be all Glory, our Heavenly King. Refrain

8. Three certain Wise Princes, they thought it most meet
To lay their rich offerings at our Saviourís feet;
Then the Shepherds consented, and to Bethlehem did go,
And when they came thither, they found it was so. Refrain

Sandys added this eighth verse, which was not found in Gilbert, 1822 or 1823.

Sheet Music from William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833), p. 61.

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Sandys' Note Concerning References in Verse 4:

"Where oxen and asses." The common tradition of the ox and the ass in the manger is not mentioned in the New Testament, but is supported by man of the early fathers. The Bee Hive of the Romish Church (p. 198. b.) says, that the idea is taken from Isaiah, chap. i. v. 3. "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib."

Also found in William Sandys, Christmas-tide, Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music (London: John Russell Smith, 1852), pp. 254-5.


Sheet Music from Richard R. Terry, Gilbert and Sandys' Christmas Carols (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1931); "Traditional words and melody (in the Seventh Mode) from 'Some Ancient Christmas Carols,' by Davies Gilbert, 1822."
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / 


Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), pp. 12-13.


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"Words and Melody from Sandys, 'Christmas Carols,' 1833"


Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Old Christmas Carols. Part One. (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1923), #9, p. 12.

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Rev. Terry notes:

"Traditional words and melody (in the Seventh Mode), from Some Ancient Christmas Carols, by Davies Gilbert, 1822 & 1823." Seven verses, with these differences:

Editor's Note: The 8th verse in Sandys does not occur in Terry's Old Christmas Carols.

Four broadsides containing this carol, with slightly different lyrics:

And see: In Bethlehem City - R.V. Williams.

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