The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

In Patras Ther Born He Was

For Christmas

Words and Music: English Traditional

This carol requires the installation of the "Junicode" font for best display.
You can obtain a copy of this font from Old English at the University of Virginia, or right click here, and then select "Save File As" to save a copy of the zipped file to your computer. See notes in F A Q.

Note: Because Middle English contains letters not found in modern English, I've used a special font, "Junicode" created by Professor Peter S. Baker, Professor of English, University of Virginia on some pages.  I will note on the individual carol's page which ones need this font. You can obtain a copy of this font from his website Old English at the University of Virginia (select "Windows TrueType," or right click here, and then select "Save File As" to save a copy of the zipped file to your computer).  This font must be downloaded and installed before these pages will display accurately.

Note: Because Middle English contains letters not found in modern English, I've used a special font, "Junicode" created by Professor Peter S. Baker, Professor of English, University of Virginia on some pages.  I will note on the individual carol's page which ones need this font. You can obtain a copy of this font from his website Old English at the University of Virginia (select "Windows TrueType," or right click here, and then select "Save File As" to save a copy of the zipped file to your computer).  This font must be downloaded and installed before these pages will display accurately.

Source: Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols from a Manuscript in the British Museum of the Fifteenth Century (London: Printed by Richards for The Warton Club, 1856), Hymn LXXII, pp. 99-100.

Mak ȝe merrie, as ye may,
And syng with me, I ȝou pray.

1. In Patras ther born he was
The holy buschop seynt Nycholas,
He wyst mekyl of Godes gras,
    Throw vertu of the Trinité.

2. He reysyd thre klerkes fro deth to lyfve,
That wern in salt put ful swythe,
Betwyx a bochere and his wyfve,
    And was hid in privyté.

3. He maryid thre maydenys of myld mod ;
He ȝaf hem gold to here fod ;
He turnyd hem fro ille to good,
    Throw vertu of the Trynyté.

4. Another he dede sekyrly,
He savyd a thef that was ful sly,
That stal a swyn out of his sty ;
    His lyf than savyd he.

5. God grawt us grace, bothe old and ȝyng,
Hym to serve at his plesyng ,
To hevene blysse he us bryng.
    Throw vertu of the Trinité.

Notes:

Several of the miracles attributed to St. Nicholas are referred to in this carol.

Verse 2:  The Three Schoolboys

Three boys were returning home from school for the holidays and had stopped at an inn overnight. The innkeeper, thinking to profit from this, took the boys, killed them, cut up their bodies, and put the parts into pickling casks. The parents of the boys were worried and appealed to Saint Nicholas who searched the road until he came to the inn. When confronted by the Bishop, the innkeeper admitted his sin. With a wave of his sceptre, Nicholas caused the boys to be reassembled and resurrected from the casks.

Verse 3: The Three Daughters

After his parents died he began to wonder how he might use his great riches, not to win any praise for himself, but rather for the glory of God. Now it happened that one of his neighbors, a nobleman who had fallen on hard times, was about to prostitute his three young daughters, hoping by this shameful business to raise enough money to support his family. When the saint learnt of this he was appalled at the thought of such a crime: he wrapped a sum of gold in a piece of cloth and threw it into the nobleman's house one night through a window, then stole away again. When the nobleman got up next morning, he found the gold and, thanking God, he arranged the marriage of his eldest daughter. Not long afterwards the servant of God did the same thing again. The nobleman, again discovering the gold and loudly singing the praises of his unknown benefactor, decided to sit up and keep watch, in order to discover who it was who had rescued him from his poverty. After a few days Nicholas threw double the amount of gold into his house; but the noise woke the nobleman and he gave chase as Nicholas ran off, shouting after him: 'Stop! Don't sneak away! I want to see you!' And, as he redoubled his efforts to catch him, he saw that it was Nicholas. Immediately he fell to the ground and tried to kiss his feet, but Nicholas stopped him, and made him promise never to reveal his secret until after his death.

Verse 4: There are several miracles related to thieves, and this reference is difficult to identify. There are a number of biographies of St. Nicholas, including an excellent book by Charles W. Jones, St Nicholas of Myra, Bari, and Manhattan: Biography of a Legend (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1978).

A good starting point is the St. Nicholas Center, especially their section on Classic and Primary Sources. Among the various older sources is the 12th century poem "The Life of St. Nicholas" by Maistre Wace that describes 21 miracles attributed to St. Nicholas; I am unable to find a copy of that poem in English.

See, generally, From St. Nicholas To Santa Claus.

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