An Ode Of The Birth Of Our Saviour1
Words: Robert Herrick (1591-1674), 1647
1. In numbers, and but these few,
I sing thy birth, oh Jesu!
Thou prettie Babie, borne here,
With sup'rabundant scorn here;
Who for thy princely port here,
Hadst for thy place
Of birth, a base
Out-stable for thy court here.
2. Instead of neat inclosures
Of interwoven osiers;
Instead of fragrant posies
Of daffadills and roses,
Thy cradle, kingly stranger,
As gospell tells
Was nothing els,
But, here, a homely manger.
3. But we with silks, not cruells,2
With sundry precious jewells,
And lilly-work will dresse thee;
And as we dispossesse thee
Of clouts, wee'l make a chamber,
Sweet babe, for thee,
And plaister'd round with amber.
4. The Jewes, they did disdaine thee;
But we will entertaine thee
With glories to await here
Upon thy princely state here,
And more for love then pittie;
From yeere to yeere
Wee'll make thee, here,
A free-born of our citie.
1. Rickert's Note: Noble Numbers. Return
2. Sandys' Note: Worsteds. Return
Sandys' Note: This [is] from Herrick's Poems, 2 vols. Edinb. 1823. Herrick was born in 1591, and the first edition of the "Hesperides" was published in 1648.
Also found in Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861)
This also is from the pen of Herrick. The expression "scorn," in the fourth line, although sounding strangely to modern ears, is a term frequently to be met with in old popular literature. It occurs in "God rest you Merry Gentlemen," and other carols in this collection.
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.
Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 138-9.
Robert Herrick left a considerable legacy of Christmas carols and customs. See this article, with links, by Henry Vizetelly, from Christmas With The Poets: Robert Herrick
See also: Christmas Customs - Robert Herrick.
If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.