The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O Well! O Well!

The First Nowell

For Christmas

Version 4
Compare: Version 1, Version 2, and Version 3

Words & Music: Traditional English carol of the 16th or 17th century.
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Meter: Irregular (Form: aabbcc)

Source: Ralph Dunstan, The Cornish Song Book (London: Reid Bros., Ltd., 1929), pp. 126, who notes that these words are taken from an old Helston Broadside.

1. O well, O well, the Angels did say
To shepherds there in the fields did lay;
Late in the night a-folding their sheep,
A winter's night, both cold and bleak.

O well, O well, O well, O well,
Born is the King of Israel.

2. And then there did appear a Star,
Whose glory then did shine so far:
Unto the earth it gave a great light,
And there it continued a day and a night. Refrain

3. And by the light of that same Star,
Three Wise Men came from country far;
To seek a King was their intent --
They follow'd the Star wherever it went. Refrain

4. The Star drew near unto the north-west,
O'er Bethlehem city it took its rest;
And there it did both stand and stay
Right over the house where our Lord lay. Refrain

5. Then enter'd in these Wise Men three,"
With reverence fall on their knee,
And offer'd up in His presence
The gifts of gold and frankincense. Refrain

6. 'Tween an ox manger and an ass,
Our Blest Messiah's place it was;
To save us all from bond and thrall,
He was a Redeemer for us all! Refrain

Sheet Music

Note from Dr. Dunstan:

"On Christmas Eve, in former days, the small people, or the Spriggans, would meet at the bottom of the deepest mines, and have a midnight mass. Then those who were in the mine would hear voices, melodious beyond all earthly voices, singing: 'O well! O well!' and the strains of some deep-toned organ would shake the rocks." (Hunt: Romances of the West of England).

See and play the Noteworthy Composer score if you have installed the NoteWorthy Composer Browser Plug-in

Ralph Dunstan, The Cornish Song Book

O Well, O Well - Dunstan

Only tested by Noteworthy for Netscape, Opera, and IE Browsers (Versions 4 or 5)
In my experience, it also works with Firefox.

Editor's Note:

These lyrics bear a strong resemblance to lyrics located by Cecil Sharp. Unfortunately, my notes are packed away, pending retirement and a move. See The New Oxford Book of Carols (#137).

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.