The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Golden Carol

Words and Music: Old English

1. We saw a light shine out a-far,
    On Christmas in the morning;
And straight we knew it was Christ's star,
    Bright beaming in the morning.
Then did we fall on bended knee,
    On Christmas in the morning;
And prais'd the Lord, who let us see
    His glory at its dawning.

2. Oh! Every thought be of His Name,
    On Christmas in the morning;
Who bore for us both grief and shame,
    Afflictions sharpest scorning.
And we may die (when death shall come,)
    On Christmas in the morning;
And see in Heav'n, our glorious home,
    That Star of Christmas morning.

Sheet Music from Rev. Charles Lewis Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New (Boston: Parish Choir, 1916), Carol #535, Arrangement by J. Stainer
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

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Sheet music from William Wallace Fyfe, Christmas: It's Customs and Carols (London: James Blackwood, 1860), pp. 161-162.

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Fyfe wrote that he preferred this air for I Saw Three Ships. He gave only the first verse.

Also found in from Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861), who notes:

Legendary lore has provided for us three notable personages, Gasper, Melchior, and Balthasar, commonly known as the Magi, who, guided by the star, were present at or shortly after the Nativity; and who survive in history as "The Three Kings of Cologne." These were the wise men who, under the direction of the star, travelled to Bethlehem with their gifts of gold, myrrh, and frankincense - whence the practice of bestowing gifts at the season of the Nativity. Sir Thomas Browne, in his curious work on vulgar errors, was the first amongst us to resolve the mystery of the three Kings of Cologne. "These wise men or kings," says he, "were probably of Arabia, and descended of Abraham by Keturah, who apprehending the mystery of the star, were by the same conducted into Judea, returned into their own country, and were after baptized by Thomas; thence about three hundred years after, by Helena the Empress, their bodies were translated to Constantinople, thence by Eustatius into Milan, and at last, by Renatus the Bishop, into Cologne (1170), where they are believed at present to remain, their monuments shown unto strangers, and having lost their Arabian titles, are crowned Kings of Cologne." The legend forms the burden of many carols, but the common English version follows that now given.

Note that Hugh Keyte, an editor of The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) believes that "Joshua Sylvester" is a pseudonym for a collaboration between William Sandys (1792-1874) and William Henry Husk (1814-1887). See Appendix 4.

For more information, see Concerning the Magi and Their Names.

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