The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

When Christ In Bethlehem Was Born

For Advent & Christmas

Italian Carol

Translator: Frederic Rowland Marvin, 1902

1. When Christ in Bethlehem was born,
The Winter night seemed rosy morn;
So bright the stars men thought 't was dayŚ
The world in golden beauty lay;
And yet one star in splendor there,
Than all the rest more heavenly fair,
The Magi to the manger drew.

2. Then holy peace o'er all the earth,
Proclaimed the blessed Saviour's birth;
Together lamb and lion fed;
Calf, wolf, and bear were gently led
By little children; leopards lay
Beside the timid kids all day;
There, fangless, basked the serpents too.

3. As shepherds watched their flocks by night,
Bright angels from the world of light,
With music filled the trembling air,
And God himself seemed everywhere.
"Be not afraid," they cried, "for see!
It is God's holy Jubilee,
With peace on earth, good will to you!"


This translation bears strong resemblance to the translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, When Christ Was Born In Bethlehem, of the Neopolitan carol Canzone D'l Zampognari (Quanno nascette Ninno a Bettelemme) by Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. The original Italian poem is said to contain 24 verses. See: Quanno nascette Ninno at Da Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera.

See also:

Contrast: When Christ Was Born In Bethlehem (Housman, 1906)

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