The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Christo Paremus Cantica

For Christmas Eve, For Christmas

Words: From the Harleian Manuscript 5396, ca. King Henry VI.

There are numerous variations of this carol.
See Notes under When Christ Was Born of Mary Free (Bramley and Stainer, with sheet music)

Music: Not Stated

Source: E. K. Chambers and F. Sidgwick, eds., Early English Lyrics (London: A. H. Bullen, 1907), #LXVIII, p. 130.

Christo paremus cantica.
In excelsis gloria.

When Crist was born of Mary free
In Bedlem in that faire cite,
Angelles song ever with mirth and glee
            In excelsis gloria.

Herdmen beheld thes angelles bright
To hem appered with gret light,
And seid ' Goddes sone is born this night.'
            In excelsis gloria.

This king is comen to save kinde,
In the scriptur as we finde ;
Therefore this song have we in minde,
            In excelsis gloria.

Then, Lord, for thy gret grace, 15
Graunt us the bliss to see thy face,
Where we may sing to thy solas
            In excelsis gloria.

Notes to LXVIII, p. 353.

Harl. 5396. Printed Wright, S.C.C., 32; Sandys, 2, 1-2.

Wright prints the refrain in one line as

‘Christo paremus canticum, excelsis gloria’.

But our reading ["in excelsis gloria"] is certainly that of the MS. Editor's Note: Sandys concurs, although "in excelsis gloria" might be a type of "short-hand," that could have pointed to the longer phrase. If that were the case, however, it was incumbent upon Mr. Wright to have so indicated.

4. Wright prints ‘song ther', which is certainly wrong. The MS. may be read as ‘songen’ or ‘song eur' = sang ever. Editor's Note: Sandys gives "songen."

8, 9, 11-13, 15-17. The first word or two in each of these lines is torn away in the MS,

In 11, Wright prints,

‘As yn scripturas we fynde,

but the MS. is clearly

'...scriptur as we finde’.

Sandys prints, marking the omissions.

15. A foot is missing in this line.

Extended Citations:

Wright, S.C.C., 32;
Thomas Wright, Specimens of old Christmas Carols, Selected from Manuscripts and Printed Books (London: The Percy Society, 1841), p. 32.
     When Cryst was born of Mary fre

Sandys, 2, 1-2.
William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833), pp. 2-3.
     When Cryst Was Born of Mary Fre (Sandys, 1833)

Editor's Note:

I'm not certain what to make of the citation given by Chambers and Sidgwick. "Sandys. 2. 1-2" would seem to point to the second volume published by William Sandys, Christmas-tide, Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music (London: John Russell Smith, 1852). However, this hymn does not occur in that volume. It does occur in his first volume, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, but is found on pp. 2-3, not pp. 1-2.

The phrase "Christo Paramus Canticam Excelsis Gloria" has been translated as "Let us raise a song unto Christ, all glory in the highest." Translation by Arthur Gaskin, A Book of Pictured Carols (London: George Allen, 1863), p. 65.

The carol ‘When Cryst was born of Mary fre’ is said to be found beginning on folio 273b according to Augustus Hughes-Hughes, Catalogue of Manuscript Music in the British Museum, Vol. 1 (London: British Museum, 1908), p. 138, who added at the carol ‘Be glad, lordynges, be ye more and lesse’ is found beginning on folio 280b. These folios have been dated to circa 1456.

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