The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Nowell, Nowell

For Advent, Christmas

The Salutation Carol of the Angel Gabriel
Based on Luke 1:26-38,
The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Words and Music: Traditional English
Bodleian Library. MS. Eng. Poet. e. 1., XV Century.

Source: Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols Now First Printed From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (London: The Percy Society, 1847), Song #65, p. 79 printed verbatim from a manuscript probably owned by a professional musician, and apparently written in the latter half of the fifteenth century, circa 1471-1485.

Nowell, Nowell, this is the saluctacion off the aungell Gabriell

Tydynges trew ther be cum new, sent frome the Trinite,
Be Gabriel to Nazaret, cite of Galile;
A clene mayden and pure virgyn thorow hyre humilite
Conceyvid the secund person in divinite.

Whan he fyrst presentid was before hyr fayer visag,
In the most demurer and goodly wys he ded to hyr omag,
And seid, Lady frome heven so hy, that lordes herytag,
The wich off the borne wold be, I am sent on messag.

Hayle, virgyne celestial, the mekest that ever was;
Hayle, temple of deite and myrrour off all grace;
Hayle, virgyne puer, I the ensure within full lyty[l] space,
Thou shalt receyve and hym conceyve that shal bryng gret solace.

Sodenly she, abashid truly, but not al thyng dysmaid,
With mynd dyscret and mek spyryt to the aungell she said:
By what maner shuld I chyld bere, the wich ever a maid
Have lyvid chast, al my lyf past, and never mane asaid?

Than ageyne to hire certeyn answered the aungell,
O lady dere, be off good chere, and dred the never a dell,
Thou shalt conceyve in thi body, mayden, very God hym self,
In whos byrth heven and erth shal joy, callid Emanuell.

Not it, he seid, vj. monethys past, thi cosyn Elyzabeth,
That was barren, conceyvid sent Johan, tru it is that I tell;
Syn she in ag, why not in yought mayst thou conceye as well,
If God wyl, whome is possybyll to have don every dell?

Than ageyne to the aungell she answered womanly,
What ever my lord commaund me do, I wyll obey mekely,
Ecce sum humilima ancilla Domini,
Secundum verbum tuum,
she said, fiat mihi.

Editor's Note:

Versions of this carol on this site:

Richard L. Greene gives us 24 Carols of the Annunciation in his The Early English Carols (Oxford, 1935), #234-#257, pp. 166-184.

The manuscript "MS. Eng. poet. e. 1." was the source manuscript for Thomas Wright's Songs and Carols Now First Printed From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century; it is now in the Bodleian Library.

See in the Bodleian Library, MS. Eng. poet. e. 1 (scroll down to get to "e. 1"), c. 1460-1480. There is a single image, fol. 41v, described as "Musical notation in a minstrel's manuscript; the text begins "Nowell, nowell, nowell, pis is pe salutacyon of pe angel gabryell" with "Bryng us in good ale" in lower margin, c. 1460-90; anglicana script." It doesn't appear that the entire volume has been scanned, or, if so, that it is readily available for viewing.

fol_41v.jpg (79890 bytes)

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