The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Christmas Carol

Alternate Title: The Shepherds Went Their Hasty Way

Words: Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 - 1834)
Compare: The Shepherds Went Their Hasty Way
The Shepherds Went Their Hasty Way - Richard  R. Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols.

Music: John Francis Barnett
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer
Verse 1 Only

Source: Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old, Third Series (London: Novello, Ewer & Co., ca 1878), Carol #63.

1. The shepherds went their hasty way,
And found the lowly stable-shed
Where the Virgin-Mother lay:
And now they checked their eager tread,
For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,
A Mother's song the Virgin-Mother sung.

2. They told her how a glorious light,
Streaming from a heavenly throng.
Around them shone, suspending night!
While sweeter than a mother's song,
Blest Angels heralded the Savior's birth,
Glory to God on high! and Peace on Earth.

3. She listened to the tale divine,
And closer still the Babe she pressed:
And while she cried, the Babe is mine!
A mother's love o'erflowed her breast1
Joy rose within her, like a summer's morn;
Peace, Peace on Earth! the Prince of Peace is born.

4. Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,
Poor, simple, and of low estate!
That strife should vanish, battle cease,
O why should this thy soul elate? 
Sweet Music's loudest note, the Poet's story,
Didst thou ne'er love to hear of fame and glory?

5. And is not War a youthful king,
A stately Hero clad in mail?
Beneath his footsteps laurels spring;
Him Earth's majestic monarchs hail
Their friends, their playmate! and his bold bright eye
Compels the maiden's love-confessing sigh.

6. Tell this in some more courtly scene,
To maids and youths in robes of state!
I am a woman poor and mean,
And wherefore is my soul elate.
War is a ruffian, all with guilt defiled,
That from the aged father's tears his child!

7. A murderous fiend, by fiens adored,
He kills the sire and starves the son;
The husband kills, and from her board
Steals all his widow's toil had won;
Plunders God's world of beauty; rends away
All safety from the night, all comfort from the day.2

8. Then wisely is my soul elate,
That strife should vanish, battle cease:
I'm poor and of low estate, 
The Mother of the Prince of Peace.
Joy rises in me, like a summer's morn:
Peace, Peace on Earth! The Prince of Peace is born!


1. Originally: The milk rushed faster to her breast Return

2. Original verse 7 omitted in Bramley and Stainer. Return

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Sheet Music from Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old (London: Novello, Ewer & Co., ca 1878).

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Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 75-7. He adds this note at page 257: "Few great poets have written more execrably than Coleridge, when he is at his worst. His carol begins well; but nothing more inappropriate could be conceived than the reference to “The maiden’s love-confessing sigh,” “War is a ruffian,” &c. The carol was written in 1799, two years after the peerless Kubla Khan and the first part of Christabel."

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