The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

To vs is borne a barne of blis

For Christmas

Words and Music: Scottish Traditional

Source: John Wedderburn, A Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs Commonly Known as 'The Gude and Godlie Ballatis.' Reprinted from the Edition of 1567, A. F. Mitchell, ed. (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1897), pp. 51-53.

To vs is borne a barne of blis,
Our King and Empriour:
Ane gracious Virgin Mother is.
To God hir Sauiour.
Had not that blissit bairne bene borne,
We had bene euerie ane forlorne,
With Sin and Feindis fell.
Christ Jesus, louing be to the,
That thow ane man wald borne be,
To saif vs from the hell.

For neuer was, nor salbe man.
Nor woman in this lyfe:
Sen Adam first our sin began,
And Eue his weddit wyfe,
That can be saif, throw thair gude deid.
For poysand all ar Adamis seid,
And can not sin refraine:
Quhill God himself fand the remeid,
And gaif his onlie Sone to the deide,
To freith vs from all paine.

We suld loue God and myrrie be,
And dryue away dispair :
For Christ is cumin from heuin sa hie.
Our fall for to repair.
(Na tung sic kyndnes can expres)
The forme of seruand takin hes
And Verbum Caro factum est,
(Except sin, lyke vnto vs all)
To freith vs from the Feindis thrall.
And mend quhair we did mis.

Full weill is thame for euer moir,
That trowis faithfullie,
Be Grace to Ring with Christ in gloir,
Throw Faith allanerlie.
And weill is thame that vnderstude,
The gracious gift of Christis blude,
Sched Sinnaris for to win :
Was neuer hard sa kynde ane thing,
Christ for his fais on Croce did hing,
To purge vs from our sin.

Thus thank we him full hartfullie,
For his greit gentilnes :
We pray him, for his greit mercy,
Trew Preichouris till incres.
Fals Pharesianis, and fenzeit lair,
Quhome we haif followit lait and air,
Baith thame and vs forgeue,
God, Father, Sone and haly Spreit,
Instruct us in thy word sa sweit.
And efter it to leue.

F I N I S.


The editor of this volume, A. F. Mitchell, had this note concerning this song at p. 250:

P. 51. To vs is borne a barne of blis.—This is an improved version of a medieval Christmas hymn, " Ein gesang von der gepürt Christi, den man auff Weinachten singet, gebessert." In his 'Kirchenlied' of 1841 Wackernagel did not trace it back farther than to the Strassburg Psalter of 1539, but in his more recent and much more exhaustive work he traces it back in the Protestant churches to the Zwickau 'Enchiridion' of 1528 and the 'RigaKirchenordnung'of 1530, the former giving the High German and the latter the Low, which he thinks is the original (vol. iii. pp. 520, 521).

The first verse, indeed, he tells us, belongs to the fifteenth century, and is found in Roman Catholic hymnals of the seventeenth century (vol. ii. p. 525). The second verse in the Scottish translation is not contained in either of the two Protestant German versions, and may possibly have been inserted as a protest against the teaching contained in the second verse of the pre - Reformation hymn. In neither of the two Protestant versions given by Wackernagel are the Latin words, retained in the third verse of the Scottish version— "verbum caro factum est"—found. The Scottish version is a happy rendering of the original, especially in the first and last verses, which I give below:—

"Ein kindelein so lbbclich
     ist uns geboren heute
Von einer Jungfraw seüberlich
     zu trost uns armen leute.
Wer uns das kindelein nicht gebom,
so weren wir allzumal verlorn,
     das heyl ist unser alle,
Ey du süsser Jhesu Christ
das du mensch geboren bist,
     Behüt uns vor der helle."

"Des danck yhm alle Christenheit
     für solche grosse gute,
Und bitte sein barmhertzigkeit,
     das er uns fort behüte
Vor falscher 1er und falschen wahn,
darynn wir han lange zeit gestahn,
     er will uns das vergeben,
Gott, vater, son, und heilig geist,
wir bitten von dir allermeist,
     las uns ym friede leben."

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