The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Babe Is Born

For Christmas, Epiphany

Words: English Traditional, Fifteenth Century from the Sloane Ms. 2593
Contrast:  There Is A Child Born of Mary, words from the Hill Ms.

Compare: A Babe Is Born, All Of A Maid
A babe is born al of a may - Thomas Wright

Source: William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868)

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 49-50.

Nowel el el el, now is well
That ever was woe.

1. A babe is born all of a may,1
In the salvation of us,
To them2 we sing both night and day,
    Veni, Creator Spiritus.

2. At Bethlehem that blessed place,
The child is bliss born He was,
Him to serve God give us grace,
    O Lux Beata Trinitas.

3. There came three kings out of the East,
To worship the King that is so free,
With gold and myrrh and frankincense,
    A solis ortus cardine.

4. The herdsmen heard3 an Angel cry,
A merry song then sung he,4
Why are ye so sore aghast?
    Jam ortus solis cardine.

5. The Angel(s) came down with a cry,
A fair song then sung he,5
In the worship of that child,
    Jam ortus solis cardine.


1. Maid. Return

2. Rickert gives "Him."  Return

3. Rickert gives "herdes herden". Return

4. Rickert gives "they" with the note that this refers to the Angels. Return

5. Rickert gives "they." Return

Rickert also gives the following translations:

Sheet Music from Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, Second Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1919), Carol #33
Key of E Major: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Key of C: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Husk's Note:

This Carol is of the time of Henry VI [1421-1471]. The Latin words with which each verse is terminated are the first lines of hymns used in the church service. This mode of writing was very prevalent amongst the mediŠval carolists.


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