Words: Mary Holden Coggeshall Seward (July 9, 2839-September 1, 1919). Mary's work often appeared anonymously, and also under the pseudonym “Agnes Burney.”
Music: Numerous settings; see below
Meter: 77 77 77 77
1. Ring the bells, the Christmas bells;
Chime out the wondrous story;
First in song on Angel tongues
It came from realms of glory;
Peace on earth, good-will to men,
Angelic voices ringing
Christ the Lord to earth has come,
His glorious message bringing.
Ring the bells, the merry Christmas bells;
Chime out the wondrous story,
Glory be to God on high,
For evermore be glory.
2. Wise men hastened from the East
To bring their richest treasure
Gold, and myrrh, and frankincense
And jewels without measure.
Him they sought, although a King,
They found in birthplace lowly,
There within a manger lay
The Babe so pure and holy. Chorus
3. Earthly crowns were not for Him;
He came God’s love revealing;
On the Cross He died for us,
His blood forgiveness sealing.
‘Tis the Saviour promised long,
Ring out your loudest praises;
Every heart this happy day
Its grateful anthems raises. Chorus
Sheet Music from Charles L. Hutchins
The earliest occurrence that I've found is Robert Lowry, ed., Bright Jewels for the Sunday School (New York: Biglow & Main, 1869), p. 122, with a setting by Theodore F. Seward (Mary's husband):
Four settings for this carol occur in Charles L. Hutchins, ed., Carols Old and Carols New (Boston: The Parish Choir, 1916). The settings include those by Arthur H. Brown (#68), T.C. Dean (#218), C. Erskine (#254), and Alfred Oake (#333); all of these versions feature the "Alt. Chorus" above.
The most popular setting seems to be that by Sir. Arthur H. (A.H.) Brown. Also occurs in:
Sigismond Lasar, ed., The Chapel Hymnal: with Tunes (Biglow & Main, 1882) #217. Words by Mrs. Mary C. Seward, Setting by A. H. Brown. Meter: 77 77 77 77
H. S. Hoffman, James A. Moore (theologian.), Hugh Archibald Clarke, eds., Hymnal, with Music, for Children (Reformed Episcopal Publication Society. J.M. Armstrong, 1887), pp. 238-9, #230. No attribution.
Charles S. Robinson, ed., Laudes Domini (Century, 1888), #111, with attribution to “Miss Agnes Burney.”
John Ireland Tucker, ed., The New Children's Hymnal: with a Choral Service for Sunday Schools, Guilds, Day Schools, and General Parish Use (J. Pott, 1892), #41. Words: Agnes Burney; setting by A.H. Brown.
Ella M. Powers, "A Christmas Exercise," The Popular Educator, v. 13, 1895, p. 122. No attribution. Significant adaption of the words, referencing the tune Hold The Fort (but no music provided).
Alfred Theodore Schauffler, ed., Hosanna for the Sunday School (Century, 1898), #110, with attribution: Mrs. Mary C. Seward. Setting by Arthur H. Brown.
Songs for Intermediate Grades (California. State Normal School, San José, 1916), p. 45. No attribution.
According to a note in “The Musical Times”, v. 38, December 1, 1897, p. 824, this carol was published in the Novello Christmas Carols series as No. 275, words by Agnes Burney and music by the late Sir Joseph Barnby, “...and its strains attest to the skill of this musician in writing effectively for voices in harmony. The descant of the basses through an octave on a fourth, while the other voice parts ascent, most happily illustrates the subject of the text.” I have been unable to locate a copy of that setting.
A personal note to thanks to Bob Douglas who provided a tip to the authorship of this carol.
This carol should not be confused with “Ring, Ring The Bells,” where the following line occurs at the beginning of the second verse: “Ring, ring the bells, the Christmas bells, For in their joyous chime ...”
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