The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

As I Lay Upon a Night

Alma Redemptoris Mater

For Christmas

Words and melody from a parchment roll in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. (Date, Fifteenth Century.)
Mode XIII.

See: Cambridge UK, Trinity College O.3.58 (1230)

Compare: Alma redemptoris mater

Also found in the Selden MS; see: As I Lay Upon A Night (Terry, #174)

Source: Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #189, pp. 36-37.

Alma Redemptoris Mater.

1. As I lay up on a night
My thought was on a berd so bright
That men called Mary, full of might,
Redemptoris Mater.

2. (Lo) here Gabriel with light,
And said 'Hail be thou, blissful wight
To be called now (maiden) art thou dight,
Redemptoris Mater.

3. At that word that lady bright
Anon conceived God, full of might
Then men wist well that she (Mary) hight
Redemptoris Mater.

4. (When) Jesus on the cross was pight
Mary was doleful of that sight,
Till she saw Him (gain) rise upright.
Redemptoris Mater.

5. Jesus that sitt'st in heaven's light,
Grand us to come before Thy sight
With that berdè that is (all) so bright,
Redemptoris Mater.

Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #189, pp. 36-37.

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Note from Rev. Terry regarding the sixth measure of the verse.

The MS. Distinctly gives G, but the banal melodic progression thus produced in bars 2-6 (C.G.A.G.G.A.G.C.G.G.) together with the anlogy of the last line seem to suggest that the note should be A. I have, however, left the text as it stands.

Note from Rev. Terry:

Berde = maid

Dight = worthy

Wist = knew

Hight = was called

Pight = placed (Lit. thrown)

Sheet Music from Sir Richard Runciman Terry, A Medieval Carol Book: The Melodies Chiefly from MMS. in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1932), Carol #23, pp. 44-45.

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Editor's Note:

Alma Redemptoris Mater means “Loving Mother of our Saviour.” It is one of four Latin Marian antiphons sung during the Daily Office; the other three are Ave Regina cælorum, the Regina cœli and the Salve Regina. For the Latin and English texts, see Alma Redemptoris Mater (at EWTN) and Alma Redemptoris Mater at the Marion Library. For general information, including texts, see Alma Redemptoris Mater at Wikipedia.


There are several versions of this carol on this web site:

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 14, who notes, at page 149, "This carol is found in several versions differing slightly. The music was perhaps written by Dunstable."

Another collection containing carols from a roll in the Library of Trinity College is J. A. Fuller Maitland, ed., English Carols of the Fifteenth Century From A MS Roll in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. (London: The Leadenhall Press, et al., 1891). With added vocal parts by W. S. Rockstro.

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