The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Salutation Carol

For Advent, Christmas

Words and Music: Traditional English
Bodleian Library. MS. Arch. Selden B. 26. XV Century.

Compare: Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Nowell, Nowell
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell (Thomas Wright, 1847)
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell (Edith Rickert, 1914)

Tune: Old English
Setting by R. Vaughan Williams
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Source: Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, First Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd., 1913), Carol #25

Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell
This is the salutation of the Angel Gabriel.

1. Tidings true there be come new,
Sent from the Trinity
By Gabriel to Nazareth,
City of Galilee.
A clean maiden, a pure virgin,
By her humility
Shall now conceive the Person
Second in Deity.

2. When that he presented was
Before her fair visage,
In most demure and goodly wise
He did to her homage;
And said, “Lady, from heaven so high.
That Lordes heritage,
For he of thee now born will be,
I'm sent on his message.

3. “Hail, Virgin celestial,
The meek'st that ever was!
Hail, temple of the Deity!
Hail, mirror of all grace!
Hail, Virgin pure! I thee ensure,
Within a little space
Thou shalt conceive, and him receive
That shall bring great solace.

4. Then bespake the Maid again
And answered womanly,
“Whate'er my Lord commandeth me
I will obey truly.”
With “Ecce sum humillima
Ancilla Domini;
Secundum verbum tuum,”

She said, “Fiat mihi.”

Sheet Music from Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, First Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1913), Carol #25

Editor's Note. The following account is from William Chappell, The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time (London: Chappell & Co., 1859), pp. 41-43:

A curious collection of the songs and Christmas carols of this reign (Henry VI.) have been printed recently by the Percy Society. (Songs and Carols, No. 73.)

The editor of the MS. (Mr. T. Wright) observes that “The great variations in the different copies of the same song, show that they were taken down from oral recitation, and had often been preserved by memory among minstrels, who were not unskilful at composing, and who were not only in the habit of, voluntarily or involuntarily, modifying the songs as they passed through their hands, and adding or omitting stanzas, but of making up new songs by stringing together phrases and lines, and even whole stanzas from the different compositions which were imprinted on their memories.” But what renders the manuscript peculiarly interesting, is, that it contains the melodies of some of the songs as well as the words. From this it appears that the same tune was used for different words. At page 62 is a note, which in modern spelling is as follows: “This is the tune for the song following; if so be that ye will have another tune, it may he at your pleasure, for I have set all the song.” The words of the carol, “Nowell, Nowell,” (Noel) are written under the notes, but the wassail song that follows, and for which the tune was also intended, is of a very opposite character, “Bryng us in good ale.” I have printed the first verse of each under the tune, but it requires to be sung more quickly for the wassail song than for the carol.

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