The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Bethlehem, Of Noblest Cities

For Lauds during Epiphany

Words: O sola magnarum urbium, Cathemerinon ("The Hymns of Prudentius"), Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-405)
Translation by
Edward Caswall, ca. 1849

See notes under Earth Has Many A Noble City

Music: Stuttgart
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Meter: 87 87

Source: George Radcliffe Woodward, ed., Songs of Syon (London: Schott & Co., Third Edition, 1908), # 37.
Subsequently, a copy of the Caswall translation from Lyra Catholica (1851) was obtained, compared, and the text corrected.

1. Bethlehem, of noblest cities
None can once with thee compare;
Thou alone the Lord from heaven
Didst for us Incarnate bear.

2. Fairer than the sun at morning
Was the star that told his birth;
To the lands their God announcing,
Hid beneath a form of earth.

3. By its lambent beauty guided,
See, the Eastern Kings appear;
See them bend, their gifts to offer,—
Gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh.

4. Offerings of mystick meaning!— 1
Incense doth the God disclose;
Gold a Royal child proclaimeth;
Myrrh a future tomb foreshows.

5. Holy Jesu! in thy brightness
To the Gentile world display’d!
With the Father, and the Spirit,
Endless praise to Thee be paid. 2


1. Woodward gives "Solemn things of mystick meaning—" Return

2. Woodward gives "Praise eterne to thee be paid" Return

Note that both this version, Earth Has Many A Noble City and Bethlehem, Not The Least Of Cities all claim to be based on the translation by Edward Caswall, but have fairly significant differences in their wordings. There have been many translations of the original by Prudentius.

Also found in The English Hymnal (London: Oxford University Press, 1906), #40, p. 65, and Dearmer, Williams and Shaw, eds., Songs of Praise (London: Oxford University Press, 1931, 1959, #84, p. 97.


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Bethlehem Of Noblest Cities - Stuttgart

Earth Has Many A Noble City - Stuttgart

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