The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Shepherds Went Their Hasty Way

Alternate Title: The Virgin Mother

For Christmas Eve

Words: Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834), 1799

Music: John Francis Barnett

Source: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sibylline Leaves: A Collection of Poems (London: Rest Fenner, 1817), pp. 265-267.

1. The shepherds went their hasty way,
And found the lowly stable-shed
Where the Virgin-Mother lay:
And now they check'd their eager tread,
For to the Babe, that at her bosom clung,
A Mother's song the Virgin-Mother sung.

2. They told her how a glorious light,
Streaming from a heavenly throng.
Around them shone, suspending night!
While sweeter than a Mother's song,
Blest Angels heralded the Savior's birth,
Glory to God on high! and Peace on Earth.

3. She listen'd to the tale divine,
And closer still the Babe she press'd:
And while she cried, the Babe is mine!
The milk rush'd faster to her breast
Joy rose within her, like a summer's morn;
Peace, Peace on Earth! the Prince of Peace is born.

4. Thou Mother of the Prince of Peace,
Poor, simple, and of low estate!
That strife should vanish, Battle cease,
O why should this thy soul elate?
Sweet Music's loudest note, the Poet's story,
Didst thou ne'er love to hear of Fame and Glory?

5. And is not War a youthful King,
A stately Hero clad in mail?
Beneath his footsteps laurels spring;
Him Earth's majestic monarchs hail
Their Friend, their Playmate! and his bold bright eye
Compels the maiden's love-confessing sigh.

6. “Tell this in some more courtly scene,
“To maids and youths in robes of state!
“I am a woman poor and mean,
“And wherefore is my Soul elate.
“War is a ruffian, all with guilt defiled,
“That from the aged Father's tears his Child!”

7. “A murderous fiend, by fiends ador'd,
“He kills the Sire and starves the Son;
“The Husband kills, and from her board
“Steals all his Widow's toil had won;
“Plunders God's world of beauty; rends away
“All safety from the night, all comfort from the Day.”

8. “Then wisely is my soul elate,
“That strife should vanish, battle cease:
“I'm poor and of low estate,
“The Mother of the Prince of Peace.
“Joy rises in me, like a summer's morn:
“Peace, Peace on Earth! The Prince of Peace is born!

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