The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

As I Lay Upon A Night

Alma redemptoris mater

For Christmas

Words and melody from the Selden MS. (Selden MS. B.26ff.18. & Selden MS. B.26 f. 18v), Bodleian Library, Oxford. The Words and Music has been attributed to John Dunstable (c. 1390-1453)

Compare: Alma redemptoris mater

Also found in a MS at Trinity College, Cambridge; see:  As I Lay Upon a Night (#189)
And see:
Cambridge UK, Trinity College O.3.58 (1230)

Source: Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #174, pp. 6-7.

Mode I.

1. As I lay upon a night,
For sooth I saw a seemly sight
I beheld a bird so bright;
A child she bare upon her knee.
Her looking was so lovely,
Her semblance was so sweet;
Of all my care and sorrow
She may my balys beat.

2. (All) by her sat a guardian,
That said all in his saw,
He seem
èd by his semblance
A man of the old Law,
'Thou wond'rest,' he said solemnly
'At what thou dost behold,
And so (y-wis) did I truly;
Till tales were to me told.'

Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #174, pp. 6-7.

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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 #3, pp. 6-7.

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Notes from Rev. Terry:

Editor's Note:

Alma Redemptoris Mater means “Loving Mother of our Saviour.” It is one of four Latin Marian antiphons sung during the Daily Office; the other three are Ave Regina cælorum, the Regina cœli and the Salve Regina. For the Latin and English texts, see Alma Redemptoris Mater (at EWTN) and Alma Redemptoris Mater at the Marion Library. For general information, including texts, see Alma Redemptoris Mater at Wikipedia.

There are several versions of this carol on this web site:

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 14, who notes, at page 149, "This carol is found in several versions differing slightly. The music was perhaps written by Dunstable."

The Selden Manuscript was one of the sources for A Medieval Carol Book by Rev. Terry. Scans of the manuscript pages are on-line at the Bodleian Library; see Selden MS B26 (opens in a new window at an exterior site).

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