The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Christ Was Born On Christmas Day

For Christmas Day

Words: Resonet In Laudibus, verses 1-4 freely translated by John Mason Neale
Rev. Neale wrote "Probably of the 13th century. It was popular all over Europe."

Music: Resonet In Laudibus, the Finnish title of the German tune, Fourteenth Century.
Also known as Nunc Angelorum, adapted by Rev. Thomas Helmore from Piae Cantiones, 1582.
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF
For other settings, see below
Meter: Irregular

Source: Collected Hymns, Sequences and Carols (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914), from John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore, Carols for Christmas-tide (London: Novello, 1853). Collected Hymns contains only the texts. For the music see The Condensed Vocal Parts to the Carols for Christmas-tide (link is to Google Books).

Christ was born on Christmas Day;
Wreathe the holly, twine the bay;
        Christus natus hodie:1
The Babe, the Son, the Holy One of Mary.

He is born to set us free,
He is born our Lord to be,
        Ex Maria Virgine:2
The God, the Lord, by all ador’d forever.

Let the bright red berries glow
Ev’rywhere in goodly show;
        Christus natus hodie:3
The Babe, the Son, the Holy One of Mary.

Christian men, rejoice and sing;
‘Tis the birthday of a King,
        Ex Mariâ Virgine:4
The God, the Lord, by all ador’d forever.

    Night of sadness;
    Morn of Gladness
            Evermore:
            Ever, Ever:
    After many troubles sore,
Morn of gladness evermore and evermore.
    Midnight scarcely pass'd and over,
        Drawing to this holy morn,
    Very early, very early
        Christ was born.

        Sing out with bliss,
        His name is this;
            Emmanuel:
        As was foretold
        In days of old
           By Gabriel.

Midnight scarcely pass'd and over,
    Drawing to this holy morn,
Very early, very early
    Christ was born.

Notes:

1. Or: 'Light and life and joy is He.' From O. Hardwig, ed., The Wartburg Hymnal (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1918). Return

2. Or: 'Carol, Christians, joyfully.' Return

3. Or: 'Light and life and joy is He' Return

4. Or: 'Carol, Christians, joyfully.' Return


Other Alternative Verses:

I.

Sing out with bliss,
His name is this: Immanuel!
As twas foretold in days of old,
by Gabriel.

Source: O. Hardwig, ed., The Wartburg Hymnal (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1918), and has an adapted tune: Carol #135. MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / XML. See, also Nunc Angelorum.

II.

Night of sadness, morn of gladness,
Evermore, ever, ever,
After many troubles sore,
Morn of gladness, evermore and evermore.
Midnight scarcely pass'd and over,
Drawing to this holy morn,
Very early, very early Christ was born.

Sing out with bliss, His name is this
Emmanuel,
As was foretold in days of old by Gabriel.
Midnight scarcely pass'd and over,
Drawing to this holy morn,
Very early, very early Christ was born.

Source: Charles Hutchins, ed., Carols Old and Carols New (Boston: Parish Choir, 1916) (as verses 5 and 6 in that version, carol # 337, to a different tune than the first four verses): Christ Was Born #337; MIDI and Noteworthy Composer files below.

Hutchins printed three other versions, all with the Neale lyrics and each with a different score:

  • Christ Was Born #375 (composer unknown)

  • Christ Was Born #430 (music by George Edgar Oliver)

  • Christ Was Born #508 (music by C. L. Williams)

See links below.


Erik Routley - in The University Carol Book (Brighton: H. Freeman & Co., 1961), Carol #128 - identifies the tune as one from Piae Cantiones (1585), and has a separate version from verses above (which are Routley's verses 5 and 6):

Night of sadness, morn of gladness evermore,
Ever, Ever,
After many troubles sore,
Morn of gladness, evermore and evermore.

Midnight scarcely pass'd and over,
Drawing to this holy morn,
Very early, very early Christ was born.
Midnight scarcely pass'd and over,
Drawing to this holy morn,
Very early, very early Christ was born.

The tune he reproduced is the same as for verses 6-7, Carol #337, below. See also Erik Routley, The English Carol (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), pp. 196-7.

The Rev. George Ratcliffe Woodward had the verses as above from Neale, but publishes these verses in The Cowley Carol Book for Christmas, Easter and Ascentionside, First Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1929, Revised and Expanded Edition):

5. Night of sadness: Morn of gladness evermore
Ever, ever:
After many troubles sore,
Morn of gladness evermore and evermore.

6. Midnight scarcely pass'd and o'ver,
Drawing to this holy morn,
Very early, very early
Christ was born.

7. Sing out with bliss,
His Name is this: Emmanuel:
As was foretold in days of old
By Gabriel.

8. Midnight scarcely pass'd and over,
Drawing to this holy morn,
Very early, very early
Christ was born.

The first four verses in the Woodward version echo the familiar strains, although with an interesting variation in the last line (perhaps the original from Thomas Helmore?).  The fifth and sixth verses have a very different tune from the first four - the tune used for the sixth verse is reminiscent of the chorus of Joseph Leiber, Joseph Mein; see Oxford #77. The seventh and eighth verses are said to be set to a separate tune. Acording to Routley, "Neale's original version (Cowley Carol Book [Carol] 4) includes further words [e.g., verses 7 & 8] to include the tune, Magnum nomen Domini, which is printed separately in Piae Cantiones." The full sheet music from Woodward is reproduced below.

Joshua Sylvester reproduces the same version as Woodward in A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861). His notes are reproduced below

Other English versions include:

  • Christ Was Born On Christmas Day, Elizabeth Poston, copyright 1965

  • Long Ago And Far Away,  Edward Traill Horn III (1909-), copyright 1958

A third translation, Let the Voice of Praise Resound (Carol #55), is found in Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott, The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992). The same tune is employed with "Joseph, Lieber Joseph Mein" ("Joseph, Dearest Joseph Mine"). Keyte and Parrott have an extensive history of "Resonet In Laudibus" following the translations. Dearmer, Williams and Shaw, in The Oxford Book of Carols, also have a brief history of the tune in the notes following "Joseph lieber, Joseph mein", Carol #77.

Two literal translations of Resonet In Laudibus appear on the Memoria Press web site. One is a translation by Kira Maffet; the other is described as the official Memoria Press version.

Artwork by John A. Hows from Christmas In Art And Song.
New York: The Arundel Printing and Publishing Company, 1879.
Christ Was Born On Christmas Day

Compare: Christ Was Born On Christmas Night, lyrics by Bishop C. W. Stubbs:

Sheet Music from John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore, Carols for Christmas-tide: The Condensed Vocal Parts (London: Novello, 1854), pp. 14-16.

Christ_was_born-Cond_Vocal-01.jpg (86882 bytes) Christ_was_born-Cond_Vocal-02.jpg (100108 bytes) Christ_was_born-Cond_Vocal-03.jpg (105838 bytes)

Sheet Music from Rev. Charles Lewis Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New (Boston: Parish Choir, 1916):

Christ Was Born #337 (Resonet In Laudibus, German, 14th Century)
Verses 1-4 above: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Verses 6-7 above: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Christ_Was_Born_337.gif (204728 bytes)

Christ Was Born #375 (No attribution)
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Christ_Was_Born_375.gif (77756 bytes)

Christ Was Born #430 (Music by George Edgar Oliver)
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Christ_Was_Born_430.gif (83951 bytes)

Christ Was Born #508 (Music by C. L. Williams)
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Christ_Was_Born_508.gif (78102 bytes)

Sheet Music from John Clark Hollister, ed., Chants, Carols, and Tunes: A Supplement To The Sunday-School Service and Tune Book (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1863, 1865), Supplement pp. 22-3.

Sheet Music from J. P. McCaskey, ed., Franklin Square Song Collection, No. 1. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1881, p. 143.

Sheet Music from Edgar Pettman, ed., Modern Christmas Carols (London: Weekes & Co., 1892), #21:

21-Christ_Was_Born_On_Christmas_Day.jpg (68324 bytes)

Note from Pettman: No. XXI.—Very full and loud, but not too fast; the third line in each verse to be sung much slower than the other lines.

Sheet Music from Rev. Edgar Pettman, ed., The Westminster Carol Book (London: Houghton & Co., 1899), No. 13, p. 17.

Pettman_13-Christ_Was_Born_On_Christmas_Day.jpg (348694 bytes)

Sheet Music from George Ratcliffe Woodward, The Cowley Carol Book, First Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1902, Revised and Expanded Edition 1929), Carol #4
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Sheet Music: Richard R. Terry, Twelve Christmas Carols. London: J. Curwen & Sons, Ltd., 1912

Sheet Music from O. Hardwig, ed., The Wartburg Hymnal (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1918), #135


Compare:

Christ Was Born on Christmas Night, #377 (Music by Sir Thomas Wardle)
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Christ_Was_Born_377.gif (145049 bytes)

Christ Was Born on Christmas Night, #543 (Music by T. Tertius Noble)
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Christ_Was_Born_543.gif (198495 bytes)

Elizabeth Poston, The Penguin Book of Christmas Carols

Resonet In Laudibus. Fourteenth century. Referred to by Wicel (1550) as ‘one of the chief Christmas songs of joy’. According to Dreves, its oldest known form is in the Mosburg Gradual of 1360. The words of Joseph, lieber Joseph mein were sung also to this tune, as were several other texts. It occurs in several fifteenth-, sixteenth-, and seventeenth-century printed collections, Catholic and Lutheran. The many versions and parodies of this carol’s text in German sacred songbooks are evidence of the carol’s immense popularity. The fourteenth-century melody exists in various versions and is to be found in most of the German sixteenth- and seventeenth-century songbooks and in Cantiones. For what not to do with the words see Introduction, page 15. [‘wreath the holly, twine the bay’ — deplored by Poston and numerous others.]

Also found in Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861)

This is another of the macaronic carols, and will be found to be one of the most jubilant and spirited in our collection. It is believed to be of Swedish origin, possessing the true choral resonance of the Scandinavian ballad. We are indebted to the Rev. J. M. Neale for this English version.

Note that Hugh Keyte, an editor of The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) believes that "Joshua Sylvestre" is a pseudonym for a collaboration between William Sandys (1792-1874) and William Henry Husk (1814-1887). See Appendix 4.

Editor's Note: A primary source for Neale & Helmore's Carols for Christmas-tide (1853) was the Swedish songbook Piæ Cantiones: A Medieval Song Treasury (1582).


Editor's Note: I am compelled to add that Neale took quite a lot of heat from the "Dons" of English hymnody for this and other carols which he wrote.  Indeed, the criticism of his "Good King Wenceslas" could light a good fire on a damp night.  Eric Routley, however, comes to Neale's defense:

Poor Neale! He wanted a carol for St. Stephen's day, and he had heard of the Bohemian legend of St. Wencelaus; so he writes what is to most ears a picturesque and agreeable narrative with a cosy moral that meant business in the nineteenth century. Myself, I am unable to see what is wrong with 'Good King Wenceslas' as a sociable carol. It lacks pious unction, and looking at the nineteenth-century productions that have it, we may be thankful for that; it is nothing like a hymn. But Neale knew what he was doing: had he meant to write a hymn he would have done so, and done it better than most of his contemporaries.

For all their criticisms, Neale's Christmas visions have stood the test of time, and do not seem to diminish. For more on the author, please see John Mason Neale. The above quotation is from Eric Routley, The English Carol (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), p. 193.