The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Sweet Musicke, Sweeter Farre

The Shepherds's Song
A Caroll or Himne for Christmas

Words: Middle English, Edmund Bolton

Source: William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833)

                Sweet Musicke, sweeter farre
                    Then any song is sweet:
                Sweet Musicke heauenly rare,
                    Mine eares, O peeres, doth greeete.
You gentle flocks, whose fleeces, pearl'd with dewe,
    Resemble heaven, whom golden drops make bright:
Listen, O Listen, now, O not to you
    Our pipes make sport to shorten wearie night.
                But voyces most diuine
                    Make blissfull harmonie:
                Voyces that seeme to shine,
                    For what else cleares the skie?
Tunes can we heare, but not the singers see,
The tunes diuine, and so the singers be.

                Loe how the firmament
                    Within an azure fold
                The flock of starres hath pent,
                    That we might them behold.
Yet from their beames proceedeth not this light,
    Not can their christals such reflection giue.
What then doth make the element so bright?
    The heauens are come downe vpon earth to liue.
                But harken to the song,
                    Glory to glories king,
                And pece all men among,
                    These quyeristers doe sing.
Angels they are, as also (Shepheards) hee
Whom in our feare we doe admire to see.

                Let not amazement blinde
                    your soules, said he, annoy:
                To you and all mankinde
                    My message bringeth joy.
For loe the world's great Shepheard now is borne,
    A blessed babe, an infant full of power:
After long night, vp-risen is the morne,
    Renowning Bethlem in the Sauiour.
                Sprung is the perfect day,
                    By prophets seene a farre:
                Sprung is the mirthfull May,
                    Which Winter cannot marre,
In Dauid's citie doth this sunne appeare:
Clouded in flesh, yet Shepheards sit we here.


                                                                                E. B.

Sandys' Note: From England's Helicon, 1600, No. 97, reprinted in the British Bibliographer. "E. B." stands for Edmund Bolton

Note from Joshua Sylvestre, Christmas Carols - Ancient and Modern (circa 1861, reprinted A. Wessels Company, New York, 1901): This carol, or Hymn for Christmas, as it is termed in the original, was composed by Edmund Bolton: it is reprinted from "England's Helicon," 1600. [The text from Sylvestre was modernized in spelling to the time, circa 1861.]

Note that Hugh Keyte, an editor of The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) believes that "Joshua Sylvestre" is a pseudonym for a collaboration between William Sandys (1792-1874) and William Henry Husk (1814-1887). See Appendix 4.

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