The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O See Man's Saviour in Bethlehem Born

For Christmas

Words and Music: English Traditional

Source: A Choice Collection of Christmas Carols. No. 1, pp. 5-6, circa 1775.

O see man's Saviour in Bethlehem born,
His lodging base, himself held in scorn;
The crib at which the ox and ass were fed,
Mary, Christ's mother, makes her young son's bed.

Yet see how shepherds fall down flat before them,
And how the wisemen do with gifts adore him,
Hark! how a choir of heavenly angels sing,
Sweet carols at the birth of this new king.

O happy man, when thou thy soul to save,
Christ comes from heaven, and makes himself a slave:
See here that pillar, which being naked bound,
Thy Christ had his flesh tore with many a wound.

When the cock crows, let it this grief afford,
To think how Peter thrice deny'd his Lord:
See Judas's lanthorn, and see Judas pence,
See the dice threw, uncloath his innocence.

See pinchers, nails, and hammers how they meet,
To nail to the cross Christ's blessed hands and feet,
O wretched man! since Christ for thee thus dy'd,
Let him not still by thee be crucify'd.

Editor's Notes:

This is one of the 89 Christmas carols "now annually Printed" according to William Hone (in "Ancient Mysteries Described," 1823). Unfortunately, he didn't give the texts, and a sizeable number have been lost (but may be found yet, as libraries continue to be scanned and posted on-line).

The carol occurred on at least two Broadsides, as well as this printed Collection.

Firth b.34(29)-17212.jpg (1142682 bytes)We can see a poor copy of one of the Broadsides. The carol was one of three printed by J. Pitts of London between 1819 and 1844 on a Broadside with the main carol being "The Black Decree." A copy of the carol was found in Firth b.34(29) in the Firth Collection at the Bodleian Library, Roud Number V12330.

It's interesting that the title of the carol, "O, See, Man's Saviour's in Bethlehem Born," was different from the first line of the carol, which made searches somewhat more challenging. Pitts operated the Toy & Marble Warehouse, located at 6, Great St Andrew Street, 7, Dials.

There is also a description of this Broadside in a Catalogue by Carnell, "Ballads in the Charles Harding Firth Collection." It is No. G31 in the Firth Collection at the Sheffield University Library.

broadsideSHA-06-047-96.jpg (304826 bytes)The second Broadside is available on microfilm in the Cecil Sharp Broadside Collection, Vol. 3, at the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library. The publisher was T. Batchelar of 115, Long Alley, Moorfields, London, ca. 1825; the title of the sheet was "Christmas Recreations." We have this description, and the image can be seen at CJS1/10/3/593 - Vaughan Williams Memorial Library (I had some trouble with this URL; you may wish to do a search for the record number, CJS1/10/3/593). There is also a copy of this Broadside in the Sabine Baring-Gould’s Collection of Popular Literature, Vol. 2, currently located at the Devon Record Office. This is part of the 'Exeter Working Papers In Book History' project by Ian Maxted.

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