The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Christmas Day

George Wither (1588-1667)

17th Century

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), Page #198

1. As on the night before this happy morn,
A blessed angel unto shepherds told,
Where (in a stable) He was poorly born,
Whom nor the earth nor heaven of heavens can hold:
Through Bethlehem rung
This news at their return:
Yea, angels sung
That God with us was born;
And they made mirth because we should not mourn.
This angel-carol sing we, then,
To God on high all glory be,
For peace on earth bestoweth He,
And showeth favour unto men.

2. This favour Christ vouchsafed for our sake;
To buy us thrones, He in a manger lay,
Our weakness took, that we His strength might take;
And was disrobed that He might us array;
Our flesh He wore,
Our sin to wear away;
Our curse He bore,
That we escape it may;
And wept for us that we might sing for aye.
With angels, therefore, sing again,
To God on high all glory be;
For peace on earth bestoweth He,
And showeth favour unto men.


Also found in Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861), pp. 111-112:

George Wither, the author of the follow carol, was both a poet and soldier in the time of the Civil Wars. In the former character, however, he is better known to posterity. His poems, of which he has left us several small volumes, are graceful and tender, and some of them are invariably included in all collections of old poetry. Mr. Russell Smith has recently reprinted, in a very handsome form, his "Hymns and Songs of the Church."

Note: 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.

The volume of Wither's poetry, "Hymns and Songs of the Church," has been scanned and is available in several formats at the Internet Archive.

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