Alternate Title: The Angel Gabriel
Based on the 13th Century Latin Hymn, Angelus Ad Virginem
1. The Angel Gabriel from God
Was sent to Galilee,
Unto a Virgin fair and free,
Whose name was called Mary.
And when the Angel thither came,
He fell down on his knee,
And looking up in the Virgin's face,
He said, "All hail, Mary."1
Then, sing we all, both great and small,
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell;
We may rejoice to hear the voice
Of the Angel Gabriel.2
2. Mary anon looked him upon,
And said, "Sir, what are ye?
I marvel much at these tidings
Which thou has brought to me.
Married I am unto an old man,
As the lot fell unto me;
Therefore, I pray depart away,
For I stand in doubt of thee." Chorus
3. "Mary," he said, "be not afraid,
But do3 believe in me:
The power of4 the Holy Ghost
Shall overshadow thee;
Thou shalt conceive without any grief,5
As the Lord told unto me;
God's own dear Son from Heaven shall come,
And shall be born of thee. Chorus
4. This came to pass as God's will was,
Even as the Angel told.
About midnight an Angel bright
Came to the Shepherds' fold,
And told them then both where and when
Born was the child our Lord,
And all along this was their song,
"All Glory be given to God."6 Chorus
5. Good people all, both great and small,
The which do hear my voice,
With one accord let's praise the Lord,
And in our hearts rejoice;
Like sister and brother, let's love one another7
Whilst we our lives do spend,
Whilst we have space let's pray for grace,
And so let me carol end. Chorus
1. Or: 'Hail, all hail, Mary!' (Bramley and Stainer) Return
2. Or: 'Of Angel Gabriel' (Bramley and Stainer) Return
3. Or: 'But now' (Bramley and Stainer) Return
4. Or: 'The power of God' (Bramley and Stainer) Return
5. Or: 'but not to grieve' (Bramley and Stainer) Return
6. Or: 'All Glory be to God.' (Bramley and Stainer) Return
In love abound to all around
While we our life-time spend;
While we have space let's pray for grace:
So let my carol end. Return
This is the same version as is found in Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863–1944), ed., The Oxford Book of Ballads, 1910.
Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861):
The birth of our Saviour was a mystery upon which the old divines [ministers] and carolists were ever fond of dwelling. The familiar expressions used toward the Virgin, the angel Gabriel, and the other distinguished personages of the event, served to enlist the sympathies of rustics, and rendered the outlines of the narrative easier to their understanding. In most of the carols of this kind the plainness of the language employed prevents their being reprinted in any other than in a purely antiquarian work. Th[is] ... carol, however, although exhibiting the most indifferent poetry, shadows forth the spirit of its class, and is more free from the objections alluded to than any other I have fallen in with.
Note that Hugh Keyte, an editor of The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) believes that "Joshua Sylvester" is a pseudonym for a collaboration between William Sandys (1792-1874) and William Henry Husk (1814-1887). See Appendix 4.
This carol is much used in the Western counties, and it is to its popularity, rather than its literary merit, that it is indebted for its place in this collection. The line in the second stanza, "As the lot fell unto me," alludes to the manner in which Joseph was miraculously pointed out as the husband of the Virgin by a flower budding forth from his rod and the Holy Ghost, in the form of a dove, descending thereon, as related in the Apocryphal Gospel of the Birth of Mary. This circumstance is introduced into the tenth of the Coventry Mysteries, "Mary's Betrothment."
Sheet Music from Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old, Third Series (London: Novello, Ewer & Co., ca 1878), Carol #52.
Melody Only: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF
SATB: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF
If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.