The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Virgin and Child

For Christmas Eve, For Christmas

Version 1

Words: "Old English," possibly from  from Ms. Eng. Poet. e. 1.

Music: C. Steggall

Source: Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old, Second Series (London: Novello, Ewer & Co., 1871), Carol #25

On yester night I saw a sight,
A star as bright as day;
And all along, I heard a song,
Lullay, by by, lullay, lullay, lullay.

1. A lovely lady sat and sang,
And to her child she spake:
My Son, my Brother, Father dear,
It makes my heart to ache,
To sweet Thee there, so cold and bare,
A King upon this hay;
But hush Thy wail, I will not fail
To sing by by, lullay, lullay, to sing by by, lullay, lullay;
To sing by by lullay, lullay,
lullay, lullay, lullay, lullay, lullay.

2. The Child then spake whilst she did sing,
And to the maiden said:
"Right sure I am a mighty King,
Though in a crib My bed:
For angels bright,
Down to Me light;
Thou canst not say Me nay:
Then why so sad ?
Thou mayest be glad
To sing by by, lullay."

3. "Now, sweetest Lord, since Thou art King.
Why liest Thou in a stall ?
Why didst Thou not Thy cradle bring
To some great royal hall ?
Methinks 'tis right,
That king or knight
Should lie in good array;
And them among,
It were no wrong
To sing by by, lullay."

4. "My Mother Mary, thine I be,
Though I be laid in stall,
Both lords and dukes shall worship Me,
And so shall monarchs all:
Ye shall well see
That princes three,
Shall come on the twelfth day:
Then let Me rest
Upon thy breast,
And sing by by, lullay."

5. "Now tell me, sweetest Lord, I pray,
Thou art my love and dear,
How shall I nurse Thee to Thy mind,
And make Thee glad of cheer ?
For all Thy will
I would fulfil,
I need no more to say;
And for all this
I will Thee kiss,
And sing by by, lullay,"

6. "My Mother dear, when time it be,
Then take Me up aloft,
And set Me up upon thy knee,
And handle Me full soft;
And in thy arm,
Thou wilt Me warm,
And keep Me night and day:
And if I weep,
And may not sleep,
Thou sing by by, lullay."

7. "Now, sweetest Lord, since it is so,
That Thou art most of might,
I pray Thee grant a boon to me,
If it be meet and right;
That child or man
That will or can,
Be merry on this day;
To bliss them bring,
And I shall sing,
Lullay, by by, lullay."


Sheet Music from Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old (London: Novello, Ewer & Co., ca 1871)

Virgin_And_Child_25a.gif (477257 bytes) Virgin_And_Child_25b.gif (445162 bytes) Virgin_And_Child_25c.gif (404399 bytes)

Editor's Note:

Bramley and Stainer do not identify the source of their version of this popular carol. Based on a comparison of the texts from five different manuscripts, the most likely source was Ms. Eng. Poet. e. 1.; see: Thys endris nyghth - Thomas Wright (1847).

There are numerous carols with a very similar title, and at least five manuscript sources for versions of these two songs, including, but not limited to:

1. Versions from Addit. Ms. 5465, British Library:

2. Versions from Ms. Eng. Poet. e. 1.:

3. Versions from the Advocates Library, Edinburgh:

4. A Version from the Ms. Royal Appx. 58:

5. A Version from the Balliol MS. 354, the Richard Hill Commonplace Book:

6. A Version from Ritson's Manuscript, Add. MS 5665

Because of the similarity of the texts from Add. MS 5465 (Fairfax Ms.) and Add. MS 5665 (Ritson's Ms.), it is impossible to determine the source of Edith Rickert's second version of this carol, This Endernight I Saw A Sight (Burden: "Ah, my dear Son," said Mary, "ah, my dear,), pp. 62-63.

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