The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

From Heaven On High I Come To You

For Christmas Eve

Words: Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, by Martin Luther
From Joseph Klug's Gesangsbuch, 1535
Notes and Translations: Notes for Vom Himmel Hoch Da Komm Ich Her

Text based on Luke 2: 1-18

Translation: Dr. George Macdonald

Source: Dr. George Macdonald, Exotics. (London: Strahan & co., 1876), pp. 45-48, altered from its original appearance in the Sunday Magazine (1867), p. 255.

Chapter 2, "Luther's Song-Book," Part II, Christmas, Hymn III

A Song of the little Child Jesus, for Children at Christmas

Taken from the Second Chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke

From heaven on high I come to you,
I bring a story good and new:
Of goodly news so much I bring,
Of it I must both speak and sing.

To you a child is come this morn,
A child of holy maiden born,
A little babe so sweet and mild—
Your joy and bliss shall be that child

It is the Lord Christ, our own God.
He will you ease of all your load;
He will himself your Saviour be,
And from all sinning set you free.

He brings you all the news so glad
Which God the Father ready had—
That you shall in his heavenly house
Live now and evermore with us.

Take heed then to the token sure,
The crib, the swaddling clothes so poor;
The infant you shall find laid there,
Who all the world doth hold and bear.

Hence let us all be gladsome then,
And with the shepherd-folk go in
To see what God to us hath given,
With his dear honoured Son from heaven.

Take note, my heart; see there! look low ;
What lies then in the manger so?
Whose is the lovely little child?
It is the darling Jesus-child.

Welcome thou art, thou noble guest,
With sinners who dost lie and rest,
And com'st into my misery!
How thankful I must ever be!

Ah Lord! the maker of us all!
How hast thou grown so poor and small,
That there thou liest on withered grass,
The supper of the ox and ass?

Were the world wider manyfold,
And decked with gems and cloth of gold,
'Twere far too mean and narrow all,
To make for thee a cradle small.

The silk and velvet that are thine,
Are rough hay, linen not too fine,
Yet, as they were thy kingdom great,
Thou liest in them in royal state.

And this hath therefore pleased thee
That thou this truth mightst nuke me see—
How all earth's power, show, good, combined,
Please, help, nor comfort thy meek mind.

Dear little Jesus! in my shed,
Make thee a soft, white little bed,
And rest thee in my heart's low shrine,
That so my heart be always thine;

And so I ever gladsome be,
Ready to dance and sing to thee
The lullaby thou lovest best,
With heart exulting in its guest.

Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who his own son to us hath given!
For this the angel troop sings in
Such a new year with gladsome din.

Notes:

The original form of this hymn was printed in The Sunday Magazine, January 1, 1867: From Heaven On High I Come To You.

Exotics is composed of several named chapters, the second of which is "Luther's Song Book." It contains several translations from Luther:

Part I. Advent. Come, Saviour of Nations Wild, p. 39

Part II. Christmas.
I. Jesus We Now Must Laud and Sing
II. Prised Be Thou, O Jesus Christ
III. From Heaven On High I Come To You
IV. From Heaven The Angel-Troop Come Near

Part III. Epiphany. Herod, Why Dreadest Thou A Foe

A note on pp. 40-41 indicates that the Advent hymn is from the Latin of St. Ambrose, and the first Christmas hymn and that for the Epiphany are from the Latin of Sedulius. The first line of the fifth stanza of the Advent hymn is "Egressus ejus a Patre." There were no other hints about the names of the original Latin hymns.

There is no identification of "Luther's Song Book."

The full title of Macdonald's book was Exotics, A Translation of the Spiritual Songs of Novalis, the Hymn-book of Luther, and Other Poems from the German and Italian.

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