The Darkest Midnight in December
First Carol for Christmas
Tune: "On Christ's Nativity"
The Kilmore Carols
Source: Joseph Ranson, “The Kilmore Carols” from The Past, no. 5 (1949), pp. 68-71.
The darkest midnight in
No snow, no hail, nor winter storm,
Shall hinder us for to remember,
The Babe that on this night was born.
With shepherds we are come to see,
This lovely Infants glorious charms,
Born of a maid as prophets said,
The God of love in Mary's arms.
No earthly gifts can we present
No gold nor myrrh nor odours sweet.
But if with hearts we can content Him
We humbly lay them at his feet.
‘Twas but pure love that from above
Brought Him to save us from all harms
So let us sing and welcome Him,
The God of Love in Mary's arms.
Four thousand years from the
The world lay groaning under sin
No one could e’er expect salvation
No one could enter Heaven.
‘Twas Adam’s fall had damned us all
To Hell, to endless pains forlorn:
‘Twas so decreed we’d have ne'er been freed,
Had not this heavenly Babe been born.
But here the best of heads will
The faithless Jews will not adore
A God so poor, so mean, so humble,
A child they scorn to kneel before.
But, oh, give ear, and you shall hear
How all those wonders came to pass;
Why Christ was born to suffer scorn,
And lodged between an ox and ass.
Have you not heard the sacred
How man was made those seats to fill,
Which the fallen angels lost in glory
By their presumption, pride and will?
They thought us mean for to obtain
Such glorious seats and crowns in heaven,
So through a cheat they got Eve to eat
The fruit, to be avenged on man.
Thus we were lost, our God
The devils triumphing in our shame.
What recompense could be pretended?
No man could ever wipe off the stain.
Till God alone from His high throne
Becoming Man did us restore
Let us rejoice in tuneful voice,
Let Satan tremble and adore,
If by a woman we were wounded.
Another woman brings the cure;
If by a fruit we were confounded.
A tree our safety would procure.
They laughed at man, but if they can
Let Satan with his hellish swarms
Refuse to knee1 and honour yield
To the lovely Babe in Mary’s arms.
We like beasts lay in a stable,
Our senses blind and dead by sin
To help ourselves we not able,
But He brings grace and life again.
Thus conquered hell, confined the devil,
To free our souls from endless harms
His life He gave and now you have
The God of Love in Mary's arms.
Ye faithful hearts be not
To own your God though seeming mean
By this from Hell you were defended,
Your joys were purchased by His pain.
The Lord of all comes to a stall,
And to attend Him sends for Kings
Who by a star are called from far,
To see and hear those joyful things.
Oh, God! although man did
Here is a Man that must Thee please;
Though to compassion none could bend Thee,
Thy anger now must surely cease.
And when our crimes in aftertimes
May Thee to anger justly move,
Pray grant us peace, seeing the face
Of this Thy Son and God of Love.
Ye blessed angels join our
Let your gilded wings beat fluttering over,
Whilst every st~til set free rejoices,
And every devil must adore.
We'll sing and pray that He always may
Our Church and clergyman defend,
God grant us grace in all our days,
A merry Christmas and a happy end.
Sheet Music "On Christ's Nativity" from Ranson, p. 68.
Note from Joseph Ranson:
All the airs given in this edition of the Carols were taken down from the singing of John Devereux, The Irish; John Busher, his nephew, and Robert Whelan, all of the parish of Kilmore.
Stanzas 1, 2, 3, and 7 of this Carol were contributed by Dr. G. Flood to R. Dunstan's “Christmas Carol” (Book I), p. 27. There it is set to the air, “The Foggy Dew,” and he words are attributed to Bishop Wadding, by what authority I do not know.
Mr. Mun Hore (“Barony of Fourth man”) writing to “The People,” Jan. 27th, 1872, says that in the earliest manuscript copy of the Carols which he saw there was a “Carol for Midnight Mass” which has apparently been lost. Mr. Hore did not remember the Carol, but the opening stanzas set forth the supernatural signs in the heavens which ushered in the morn of the ever glorious Nativity. These signs were noticed by the watchful shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem, and one of these shepherds meeting his brothers, recounts to them how in the midst of an amazing light an angel appeared: –
“Fear not, “ quoth he, “I bring you good news,
A Saviour in Bethlehem’s born;
Messiah, Christ, King of the Jews,
All nations shall hear of this morn.”
This was all Mr. Hore could remember of the lost Carol for Midnight Mass.
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