The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Watchman, Tell Us Of The Night

For Advent

Report of the Watchman

Words: Sir John Bowring, Hymns: As a Sequel to Matins, 1825

Music: "Watchman," Lowell Mason, The Boston Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music, 10th edition, 1831
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / XML

Alternate tunes:
"Aberystwyth," MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / XML
"St. George" ["St. George's Windsor"], George J. Elvey, 1858,
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Melody Only: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Meter: 77 77 D

1. Watchman, tell us of the night,
    What its signs of promise are.
Traveler, over yon mountain's height,
    See that glory beaming star.
Watchman, does its beauteous ray
    Aught of joy or hope foretell?
Traveler, yes - it brings the day,
    Promised day of Israel.

2. Watchman, tell us of the night;
    Higher yet that star ascends.
Traveler, blessedness and light,
    Peace and truth its course portends.
Watchman, will its beams alone
    Gild the spot that gave them birth?
Traveler, ages are its own;
    See, it bursts over all the earth.

3. Watchman, tell us of the night,
    For the morning seems to dawn.
Traveler, darkness takes its flight,
    Doubt and terror are withdrawn.
Watchman, let thy wanderings cease;
    Hie thee to thy quiet home.1
Traveler, lo! the Prince of Peace,
    Lo! the Son of God is come!


1. Or: Hasten to your quiet home Return

Sheet Music from John Clark Hollister, ed., The Sunday-School Service and Tune Book (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1863, 1865), #3, p. 17.

Sheet music by "L. Mason" from A. B. Goodrich, ed., A New Service And Tune Book For Sunday Schools (New York: Gen. Prot. Episc. S. S. Union and Church Book Society, 1863, New Edition, Enlarged, 1866), #1, p. 23.

Sheet Music "Watchman" by Lowell Mason from The Parish School Hymnal. Philadelphia: Board of Publication of the United Lutheran Church in America, 1926, #12

One source wrote:

This hymn evokes a vivid childhood memory. Two men with deep, sonorous voices sang this song at the Christmas Eve midnight service each year for as long as I can remember. The church was dark, the watchman's solitary lantern giving the only light in a hushed sanctuary. The watchman stood at the altar, and the traveler slowly made his way down the aisle, as the two sang the question-reply verses to each other. It was hard to miss the symbolism of the lonely traveler making his way to the One Who provides light to a dark world.

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