The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O Sight of Anguish

Alternate Titles: The Infant-Saviour
Occom's Carol

A Carol for Christmas Day, 1751

Words : Samson Occom, the lyrics of which were sent to William Knapp by "A Gentleman Unknown" who requested that they be set to music.

Music: Settings to this carol include "Radiant Seraph" by Oliver Holden and "Infant-Savior" by William Knapp (1698-1768).

Source: William Knapp, ed., New Church Melody. 4th Edition. (London: R. Baldwin, S. Crowder, 1761), pp. 168-170.

O sight of Anguish, view it near
What weeping innocence is here
A manger for his bed.
The brutes yield refuge to his woe;
The worse brutes no pity show,
Nor give him friendly aid.

Why do no rapid thunders roll?
Why do no tempests rock the pole?
O miracle of grace!
Or why no angel on the wing,
Warm for the honours of their King,
T’ extirpate all the race.

Did he, that infant bath’d in tears
Call into form the rolling spheres?
Did seraphs wait his nod?
Helpless he calls, but man delays,
The moral chaos disobeys
The offspring of a God.

Say, radiant seraphs thron’d in light,
Did love o’er tow’r so high a flight?
Or glory sink so low?
This wonder angels scarce declare
Angels the rapture scarce can bear,
Or equal praise bestow.

Redemption! tis a boundless theme!
Thou boundless mind our hearts inflame
With ardor from above.
Words are but faint, let joy express,
Vain is mere joy, let actions bless
This prodigy of love.

Sheet Music to "Infant-Savior" by William Knapp, ed., New Church Melody. 4th Edition. (London: R. Baldwin, S. Crowder, 1761), pp. 168-170.

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Notes.

Special thanks to Chris Brown who wrote to alert me to this carol, and to William Knapp’s 1764 book New Church Melody, which has been reprinted by Ecco. Chris wrote: "This sets to music two very strange texts described as carols. The best known is O sight of anguish (1750), which is known in the United States as Occom’s Carol .... The other, even less well known, is Redemption the Wonder of Angels (1749)" Christ also added that "Most of the carols, and their music, are set out in Ian Russell’s The Sheffield Book of Village Carols and The Derbyshire Book of Village Carols." For more information about Ian's collections, visit Village Carols <accessed Nov. 10, 2016; we have no affiliation with Ian or his web site>.

Knapp's New Church Melody is also available from the Internet Archive (4th Edition), https://archive.org/details/newmelody00knap, and from IMSLP. (4th and 5th Editions). Information about William Knapp and links to sheet music to his hymns, anthems and carols are available at the Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL), http://www0.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/William_Knapp. This and his other two collections were very successful, and each was reprinted many times. See: Anthems for Christmas Day (London: Robert Brown, et al., 1744).

These lyrics were one of three texts sent to Knapp from "A Gentleman Unknown" who requested that they be set to music. The "unknown Gentleman" enclosed a letter with the third carol that he sent to Mr. Knapp. The text reads:

Sir

I take the liberty, tho' unknown, of troubling you with another Carol which I beg you will do me the Honour of Setting to Music. if this performance, as I fear it will, should prove less animated than the occasion require; your candor must ascribe it, in some measure, to an illness under which I have long labour'd, and which has greatly depres'd my Spirits; and likewise to the frequency of my attempts upon the same subject, this before you being the fifth Composition of the kind. you will see here too many Symptoms of a Sickly Muse. And yet I expect that Music which works wonders, and is known to be Sovereign in some diseases, will at least give her a more sprightly Air, if not totally relieve her. It will not be the first instance, in which Poetry has been supported, enlivend and recommended by the help of her Sister-Art. my own obligations of this sort to you I take this opportunity of very Sincerely and thankfully acknowledging. Some time or other I may possibly make so free, as to send you a few Songs in behalf of which I shall intreat the same assistance from the Art, in which you are so acknowledged a Master; Amusements of that kind, when decently entertaining, being, in my apprehension, no way dishonourable to the Cloth I wear. Please to return the new Carol as soon as possible and you will lay a double obligation on your Obedient Humble

Servant &c.

The author of this carol, Samson Occom, "was a member of the Mohegan nation, from near New London, Connecticut, who became a Presbyterian cleric"; see the Wikipedia article, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samson_Occom . He edited A Choice Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs. (New London, Connecticut: Thomas and Samuel Green, 1774; Second Edition, 1831, and Third Edition, 1832). Copies are available at Internet Archive, https://archive.org/details/choicecollection00twel , and Google Books, https://books.google.com/books?id=GAQPAAAAIAAJ .

Also see: William DeLoss Love, Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England (Pilgrim Press, 1899) available at Google Books, https://books.google.com/books?id=SYACAAAAYAAJ

Settings to this carol include "Radiant Seraph" by Oliver Holden and "Infant-Savior" by William Knapp. Links to the two settings can be seen at the CPDL, http://www0.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Samson_Occom .

The third text that this gentleman sent to Knapp was The Eternal Speaks, All Heaven Attends.

Chris also noted that "Between November and the new year I am a carol singer in Sheffield, North Derbyshire and West Yorkshire, where there are active local carol singing traditions."

It's always great to hear from visitors to this site, and especially from people who are able to participate in traditional carol singing activities.

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