Christus Natus Est – The Broadside
Source: William Hone (1780-1842), Chapter 3, “Christmas Carols,” Ancient Mysteries Described (1823), pp. 102-103.
There is a sheet of carols, headed thus: 'Christus Natus Est: Christ is born ;' with a wood-cut, 10 inches high, by 8 ½ inches wide, representing the stable at Bethlehem; Christ in the crib, watched by the Virgin and Joseph; shepherds kneeling; angels attending; a man playing on the bagpipes; a woman, with a basket of fruit on her head; a sheep bleating, and an ox lowing on the ground; a raven croaking, and a crow cawing on the hay-rack; a cock crowing above them, and angels singing in the sky. The animals have labels from their mouths, bearing Latin inscriptions. The complete text, from the Text Creation Partnership, is below.
Down the side of the wood-cut is the following account and explanation: ‘A religious man inventing the conceits of both birds and beasts, drawn in the picture of our Saviour’s birth, doth thus express them :
The cock croweth, Christus natus est; Christ is born.
The raven asked, Quando? When?
The cow replied. Huc nocte, This night.
The ox cryeth out, Ubi? Ubi? Where? Where?
The sheep bleated out, Bethlehem, Bethlehem.
Voice from heaven sounded, Gloria in Excelsis, Glory be on high.’
London, Printed and Sold by . Bradford, in Little Britain, the Corner House over against the Pump, 1701. Price One Penny.
The original was printed by John Stafford, London, 1631. It is said to be held in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries of London. See notes under Saint Stephen Was A Clerk (also known as "Saint Stephen and King Herod").
The legend that animals are given the gift of human speech on Christmas Eve was wide-spread in older times. There is a discussion of this legend in Chapter XIII of A Righte Merrie Christmasse: The Story of Christ-Tide, by John Ashton.
Also occurs in Hone's, The Every Day Book, Vol. 1 of 2. (London: William Tegg, 1825), December 24 - Christmas Eve, p. 800-801. In that description of the Broadside, Mr. Hone adds: "This carol is in the possession of Mr. Upcott."
The poem Christ Is Born by John Alexander Chapman is based on this legend, and Shakespeare alludes to this legend in Act 1, scene 1, of "Hamlet":
that ever 'gainst that Season comes;
Wherein our Saviours Birth is celebrated,
In Hone's book, on pp. 805-806 of December 24 - Christmas Eve, there is a discussion by Hone of the ancient belief that animals fell to their knees at midnight on Christmas Eve. Scroll down to "THE OX AND THE ASS."
The Text of the Broadside.
Source: Text Creation Partnership.
CHrist was borne in Bethelem a little Village in Iury, not farre from Ierusalem: Mary (a Virgin) was his Mother, and Ioseph (a Carpenter) his reputed Father. He liued in the raigne of Augustus Caesar, Emperor of Rome, and was put to death in the time of Tiberius. At twelue yeares of age hée disputed in the Temple, and put downe the Doctors. He was the best Master that euer was, for hée gaue (and to this day still giues) Heauen to his followers, yet had but bad Seruants, for Iudas betrayed him, Peter denied him, all forsooke him. Hée was the best Sea▪man that euer was, for he walked vpon the Waters, and at his bidding the Windes lay still. No man euer did such Cures as he did, for hée raised the dead to life, gaue sight to the Blind, made the Lame to walke, and cast out Diuels. No man euer made such Feasts as hée, his last Supper being one, where he and his twelue Disciples sate together▪ At which time, rising from Table, he tyed a Towell about his middle, and then washing all their féet, hée dryed them with that Towell: Another Feast was, which hée fed fiue thousands with fiue Barly Loaues and two Fishes: At another time (béeing at a wedding) he turned Water into Wine.
His whole life was spent in labor, in Preaching, in fasting, praying, healing sicke People, and doing myracles, yet for all this the Iewes hated him▪ Herod dispised him, Annas, Caiphas, Pilate, the Scribes & Pharisies, with all the Doctors of the Law sate in consultation together, how to intrap him, and put him to death, and for that cause hired many false witnesses, who came in against him, but they agréed not in their testimonies: yet he was betrayed by his owne Seruant Iudas, who for thirty Roman Penes sold his Master, came to him, cryed, All hayle, and with a kisse deliuered him into the hands of such, as with Bils and Staues in the night came to apprehend him as a Thiefe; Hée was thus haled to Prison. Then the custome of the Iewes, being (at euery Easter) to haue a Prisoner deliuered to them to be put to death; and Pilate asked the people if they would haue one Barrabas (a Malefactor) or Christ▪ they cryed out to haue Christ crucified, and Barrabas to be made frée. Hereupon, Christ with strong Cords was tyed to a Pillar, and with Cords & Whips scourged. At his Arraignment, he was spet vpon, and strucke ouer the face: At his comming from the Hall of Iudgment, he was whooped at, reuiled, mocked, and miserably abused. That day then which we call good Friday, béeing set downe for his day of Death, he was forced on his sore shoulders to carry his owne heauy Crosse, on which he was to suffer, & to carry it through Ierusalem, to Mount Caluarie, his place of Execution: But before this, in the open Hall, the Iewes set a Crowne of sharpe pricking Thornes vpon his head, strucke him with a Réed, and Iéered at him: To that Crosse hée was nayl'd with his Thorny Crowne on; his Hands and Féet bored through, hung betwéene two common Théeues: His side pierced with a Speare; Vineger and Gall giuen him to drink as he hung: Close to the Crosse stood his mother, her Sister, and Mary Magdalen: Christ said to his Mother, Woman behold thy Sonne. In the end giuing vp the Ghost, the Body was taken downe; He was buried, yet rose againe, and was amongst his Disciples vntill be went vp into Heauen.
A Religious Man inuenting the Conceits both for the Birdes and Beasts drawne in this picture of our Sauiours Birth, doth thus expresse them.
viz. The Cocke croweth, Christus Natus est. Christ is borne.
The Rauen asked, Quando? When?
The Crow replyed, Hac Nocte. This Night.
The Oxe cryed out, Vbi? Vbi? Where? Where?
The Sheepe bleated out, Bethlem▪ Bethelem.
A voyce from Heauen sounded, Gloria in Excelsis. Glory be on high.
Whilst Armies of Angels sung, Halleluiah. Saluation, and Glory, and Honor, and power bée to the Lord our God. Apoc. 19. 1.
London, Printed for IOHN STAFFORD, 1631.
Source. CHRISTVS NATVS EST-Christ Is Born, University of Oxford Text Archive & Text Creation Partnership.
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