The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Black Decree

Alternate Title: Let Christians All With One Accord Rejoice

For the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

Version 1

Words and Music: Traditional
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Roud Number: 2429

#45 on Hone's List of 89 Carols Printed

Source: Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old (London: Novello, Ewer & Co., ca 1878), Carol# 69.

1. Let Christians all with one accord rejoice,
And praises sing, with heart as well as voice,
To God on high, for glorious things He's done,
In sending to us His beloved Son.

2. That blessed Babe and holy Child of love
Came down from heaven that we may reign above:
The happy news was brought on angels' wings,
Of our redemption by the King of kings.

3. An earthly wonder not to be denied
Born of a Virgin mother and a bride;
Not like a prince, in worldly pomp and state,
But poor and low, to make us heavenly great.

4. The night before that happy day of grace
The Virgin mother had no resting place:
She and her pious Joseph were so low
They knew not whither or which way to go.

5. For they were forced to wander up and down,
And could not find a lodging in the town;
But in an ox's stall where beasts are fed
The mother of our Lord was brought to bed.

6. No costly silks, no robes of rich attire,
Nor gaudy show, which rich ones do admire;
But in a manger the great Lord of life
Was nourished by a mother, maid, and wife.

7. Three wise-men by a star were thither brought,
And found the blessed Babe they long had sought
The best of spices and rich costly things
They humbly offered to the King of kings.

8. And rather than the Lord of life betray
They worshipped Him and went another way:
Which so enraged the wicked Herod then,
(A Jewish king, but very worse of men).

9. He caused young harmless infants to be killed;
All under two years old, their blood was spilled;
Sad cries and groans were heard in every street,
With mangled bodies, bleeding hands and feet.

10. Young tender babes with limbs in pieces torn,
On soldiers' spears with spite and horror1 borne:
Dear parents' tears could not their rage prevent,
Nor pity move the tyrant to repent.

11. The Black Decree went all the country round,
To kill and murder children sick and sound:
They tore young children from their mothers' breast,
Thinking to murder Christ among the rest.

12. But God above, Who knew what would be done,
Had sent to Egypt His beloved Son;
Where with His earthly parents He was fed,
Until the bloody tyrant he was dead.

13. What pains and labours did not Christ endure,2
To save our souls, and happiness secure!
Was always doing good, to let us see
By His example, what we ought to be.

14. He made the blind to see, the lame to go,
He raised the dead, which none but He could do;
He cured the lepers of injected evils,
And by His mighty power cast out devils.

15. He honoured marriage with a heavenly sign,
By turning water to the best of wine;
Five thousand hungry souls by Him were fed,
With two small fishes and five loaves of bread.

16. Sufficient plenty and a welcome treat
The wondering guests with thanks and praises eat,
Who gathering up the fragments of the feast,
Their wonder, like the loaves, was much increased.

17. Twelve baskets full, not half so much before,
Instead of wasting, still increasing more!
But yet for all the wonders that He wrought,
Ungrateful Jews still His destruction sought:

18. And, that their wicked purpose might not miss,
Bribed Judas, who betrayed Him with a kiss;
Which being done, away they took Him then,
And used Him as the very worse of men.

19. Spit in His face, and with reproachful scorn,
They put upon His head a crown of thorn:
Cried with one voice, and would not be denied,
To Pilate that He should be crucified.

20. This wicked judge, with base injustice now,
To please the crowd, did their request allow,
Against his conscience, he, to end the strife,
Condemned to death the blessed Lord of life.

21. Then to a cross the Saviour of mankind
Was led, a harmless Lamb, as was designed:
To save our souls, condemned by Adam's fall,
Without His death we had been ruined all.

22. His blessed hands and feet, with bitter pain,
Were nailed to the cross, with sad disdain;
With hateful spear they pierced His tender skin,
And let out blood to wash away our sin.

23. Thus blessed Jesus freely did resign
His precious soul to save both thine and mine;
Then let us all His mercies highly prize,
Who for our sins was made sacrifice.

Sheet Music from Bramley and Stainer:

 Black_Decree_69.gif (414830 bytes) Black_Decree_69b.gif (428222 bytes) Black_Decree_69c.gif (396352 bytes) Black_Decree_69d.gif (481014 bytes)

Footnotes.

1. Corrected from “horrow” in Bramley and Stainer, an apparent misprint, as “horrow” is not found in any dictionary that I've been able to check. Other versions confirm the change. Return.

2. Note from Bramley and Stainer: “The remaining verses may be omitted.” See Editor's Notes below. Return.

3. In the Shopshire version, verse 11, line 3 reads: They tore young infants from their mothers' breast,  Return

4. In the Shopshire version, verse 12, line 4 reads: Until the cruel tyrant he was dead.  Return

Note:

In the Shopshire version, there were four verses that had additional text:

1. Let Christians all with one accord rejoice,
And praises sing, with heart as well as voice,
To God on high, for glorious things He's done,
   (To God on high, for wonders he hath done,)
In sending to us His beloved Son.
   (In sending us his well beloved Son.)

4. The night before that happy day of grace
The Virgin mother had no resting place:
    (The Virgin mother, she had no resting place:)
She and her pious Joseph were so low
They knew not whither or which way to go.
    (They scarcely knew which way or where to go.)

5. For they were forced to wander up and down,
And could not find a lodging in the town;
But in an ox's stall where beasts are fed
The mother of our Lord was brought to bed.
    (His mother made our Lord His lowly Bed

8. And rather than the Lord of life betray
They worshipped Him and went another way:
Which so enraged the wicked Herod then,
A Jewish king, but very worse of men.
    (The Jewish King, the very worst of men.)

Additional Notes:

Bramley and Stainer add a note after verse 12, “The remaining verses may be omitted.” Where only the first 12 verses are sung, the hymn is sung on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Dec. 28. During earlier times, however, the entire song could be sung either during the Christmas-tide or during the Easter season. If only the first seven verses are sung, it can be used as a general carol during the Christmas season.

Others have used three or more verses as a Christmas carol, too. The version found in Chope's Carols for Use in Church (1894), is one such version, set for the Epiphany; see: The Black Decree - Version 3.

John Speller, at his Cornish Carols web site, pointed out that in the 1870 collection, A Selection of Carols, Pieces, and Anthems, Suitable for Christmas, was also a re-cast version, this one also for Epiphany; see The Black Decree - Version 7. This Cornish version used verses 1, 3, and 7, removing all references to Herod and the Innocents. As in Chope, a chorus was added; it was sung in Cornwall, but was not elsewhere heard. See The Black Decree - Version 4.

Rodda provides only the lyrics, but, fortunately, John provides a PDF with a musical setting, including the chorus, here: One Accord. John also provides a good introduction to the Holy Innocents, as well as a discussion of The Black Decree. Recalling that our first two Victorian collectors – Davies Gilbert and William Sandys – were Cornishmen, John's Cornish Carols site is an especially good one to visit in order to get a good taste of the sounds of Christmas in the early 1820s and 1830s.

A search for "The Black Decree" (and the first line of the first verse) at the Broadside Ballads Online web site at Bodleian Library, Oxford, returned seven results, including:

Broadside Douce adds. 137(53). Differences from Bramley and Stainer, Version 1, are:

Versions on this web site:

Images of Broadsides from "Broadside Ballads Online," Bodleian Library, Oxford
Links are to the Bodleian Library:

Douce adds. 137(31)

Douce adds. 137(31)-14959.jpg (398662 bytes)

Douce adds. 137(53)

Douce adds. 137(53)-14981.jpg (578799 bytes)

Firth b.34(29)

Firth b.34(29)-17212.jpg (1142682 bytes)

Harding B 7(58)

Harding B 7(58)-00780.jpg (499156 bytes)

Harding B 7(78)

Harding B 7(78)-00801.jpg (242602 bytes)

Harding B 11(302)

Harding B 11(302)-01187.jpg (406214 bytes)

Harding B 16(341a)

Harding B 16(341a)-07319.jpg (231889 bytes)

 

Also found in G. Walters, A Good Christmas Box (Dudley: G. Walters, 1847, Reprinted by Michael Raven, 2007), pp. 43-44.

Graphic Line

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

Page One
Page Two
Page Three
Page Four

Sheet Music by Mr. A. H. Brown from from Rev. Richard R. Chope, Carols For Use In Church (London: William Clowes & Sons, 1894), Carol #131
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Page One
Page Two

Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), #37, pp. 66-67.

037a-Black_Decree.jpg (133468 bytes) 037b-Black_Decree.jpg (185351 bytes)

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