The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

What Tidings Bringest Thou, Messenger?

For Christmas

Words and melody from a parchment roll in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge. (Date, Fifteenth Century). Mode XIII.

Compare What Tidings Bringest Thou, Messenger?  from the Selden MS, Bodelein Library, from Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols.

Source: Sir Richard Runciman Terry, A Medieval Carol Book: The Melodies Chiefly from MMS. in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1932), Carol #28, pp. 52-53.

Refrain:
What tidings bringest thou, messenger,
Of Christès birth this joyful day?

1. A Babe is born of high nature,
    The Prince of Peace that ever shall be;
Of heaven and earth He hath the cure,
    His lordship is eternity
        Such wonder tidings ye may hear,
        That man is made now Goddès peer,
        Whom sin had made but fiendès prey.

2. A wonder-thing is now befall;
    That King that formed star and sun,
Heaven and earth and angels all,
    Now in mankind is new begun.
        Such wonder-tidings ye may hear,
        A Faunt is now of (but) one year,
        That hath been ever and shal be aye.

3. That seemliest slelkouth1 to see,
    This bird that hath this Babe yborn
And Lord conceived of high degree
    A maiden is, as was beforn.
        Such wonder-tidings ye may hear
        That maiden and mother is one in fere,
        And she a Lady of great array.

4. That loveliest gan greet her child,
    'Hail Son! Hail Brother Hail Father dear!
Hail daughter!2 Hail sister! Hail mother mild!'
    This hailing was in quaint manner.
        Such wonder-tidings ye may hear,
        That hailing was of so good cheer
        That mannes pain
3 is turned to play.

Notes from Rev. Terry:

1. I have retained this line exactly as in MS. on account of its scansion. Selkouth = to make wonderful. Return

2. 'He saith' occurs in the MS. after this word. As its insertion would make the line unsingable by the average choir, I have omitted it. Return

3. Between 'mannes' and 'pain' the MS. has 'syne' (sin) very doubtfully erased. It looks as though the writer at first wrote 'syne' and then changed his mind and wrote 'peyn' instead, in order to keep the alliteration,— forgetting to erase 'syne' completely. Return

Cure = care, charge.

Faunt = infant.

Beforn = before

Bird = girl, maid.

In fere = together.

Sheet Music from Sir Richard Runciman Terry, A Medieval Carol Book: The Melodies Chiefly from MMS. in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1932), Carol #28, pp. 52-53.

AMCB65.jpg (626046 bytes) AMCB66.jpg (564200 bytes)

Footnote to the Sheet Music by Rev. Terry:

At each of the points marked with an asterisk the MS. gives two beats rest, destroying the rhythmic continuity of the tune. As no such rests occur in the Bodleian copy, I have omitted them here.

Editor's Note:

All other examples of this carol on this website cite the Selden or Douce manuscripts as their source. Compare: 

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.


Related Hymns and Carols