The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Come Behold The Virgin Mother

Alternate Titles: The Virgin Mother
The Babe Of Bethlehem


Source: William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833)

1. Come behold the Virgin Mother
    Fondly leaning on her child,
Nature shews not such another,
    Glorious, holy, meek, and mild:
Bethlehem's ancient walls enclose him,
    Dwelling place of David once;
Now no friendly homestead knows him,
    Tho' the noblest of his sons.

2. Many a prophecy before him
    Publish'd his bright advent long,
Guardian Angels low adore him
    In a joyous heavenly song;
Eastern Sages see with wonder
    His bright Star illume the day,
O'er the volumes old they ponder,
    Volumes of dark prophecy.

3. Royal Bethlehem how deserted,
    All his pomp and splendor lost;
Is a stable, vile and dirty,
    All the welcome you can boost?
For they travel, of inquiring
    Where the wondrous babe is born?
On they came with great desiring,
    Although others treat with scorn.

4. See, a babe of days and weakness
    Heaven's Almighty now appears,
Liable to death and sickness,
    Shame and agony and tears.
Sovereign he and great Creator,
    He who form'd the heav'ns and earth,
Yet takes on him human nature,
    Angels wonder at his birth.

5. Why, ah, why this condescension,
    God with mortal man to dwell?
Why lay by his grand pretension,
    He who does all thrones excell?
'Tis to be a man, a brother,
    With us sinners of mankind:
Vain we search for such another,
    Ne'er we love like this shall find.

6. 'Tis to make himself an offering
    As a pure atoning lamb,
Souls redeeming by his suffering,
    That in human flesh he came;
As a God he could not suffer,
    He a body true must have;
As a man what he might offer
    Could not satisfy or save.

7. Tho' an infant now you view him,
    He shall fill his Father's throne,
Gather all the Nations to him;
    Every knee shall then bow down;
Foes shall at his presence tremble,
    Great and small, and quick and dead,
None can fly, none dare dissemble,
    None find where to hide his head.

8. Friends! Oh then in chearful voices
    They shall shout with glad acclaim,
While each rising saint rejoices,
    Saints of high or lowest fame.
Then what different appearing
    We 'mong mortal tribes shall find;
Groaning those who now are sneering,
    Triumphing the humble mind.

9. May we now, that day forestalling,
    Hear the word, and read and pray,
Listen to the Gospel calling,
    And with humble heart obey,
Give us hearty true repentance,
    Life in faith and holiness;
then we need not fear thy sentence,
    But may trust thy saving grace.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Praise the Lord.

Also found in Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861), pp. 113-116:

The popularity of the following carol is the only excuse for its insertion here. The poetry is of the most poverty-stricken description and yet there is a quaint earnestness that now and then arrests the reader's attention. Hone inserts it in his list [See: Christmas Carols now annually Printed], and the carol printers deem it sufficiently a favorite to reproduce it each Christmas.

Note: 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.

Also found in William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity. London: John Camden Hotten, 1868.:

This is a carol which has attained a considerable degree of popularity; yet it is, notwithstanding, one of the feeblish and poorest so distinguished. It is one of those productions which finds favor with the managers of the (so-called) religious societies, who include it in their collections and on their sheets, a circumstance to be lamented, as they might surely find better productions than this for dissemination. But for its long-continued popularity it would not have been accorded a place in this collection. The version of the societies have a kind of varying refrain, which is not found in the copy whence the present is taken, and which it has not been thought necessary to reproduce here.

Editor's Note: Evidently Sandys agreed with Husk concerning the refrain, since it is not found in any of the three collections cited above which include this carol.

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