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Short poem

Nahum Tate (1652-1715)

Whilst Shepherds Watch'd

              1Whilst Shepherds watch'd their flocks by night,
              2    All seated on the ground,
              3The Angel of the Lord came down,
              4    And glory shone around.

              5Fear not, said he, for mighty dread
              6    Had seized their troubled mind,
              7Glad tidings of great joy I bring
              8    To you and all mankind.

              9To you in David's town this day
            10    Is born of David's line
            11A Saviour, which is Christ the Lord;
            12    And this shall be the sign.

            13The heavenly Babe you there shall find,
            14    To human view display'd,
            15All meanly wrapt in swaddling bands
            16    And in a manger laid.

            17Thus spake the Seraph, and forthwith
            18    Appeared a heavenly throng
            19Of Angels praising God, and thus
            20    Address'd their joyful song:

            21All glory be to God on high,
            22    And to the earth be peace,
            23Good-will henceforth from Heav'n to men
            24    Begin and never cease.
            25                  Hallelujah.


1] The poem is attributed to Tate. For the traditional melody, by T. Ravenscroft, see The Cambridge Hymnal, edited by David Holbrook and Elizabeth Poston (Cambridge, Eng.: University Press, 1967), p. 313. A history of this carol is in The New Oxford Book of Carols, ed. Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 482-83. The scriptural story told by this carol appears in Luke 2.8-14.

Whilst: modernized to "While" in The Hymnal 1982, Vol. 2 (New York: Church Hymnal Corp., 1985), no. 95.

11] A Saviour, which: modernized to "The Saviour, who" in The Hymnal 1982.

15] swaddling: modernized to "swathing" in The Hymnal 1982.

18] a heavenly: modernized to "a shining" in The Hymnal 1982.

19] and thus: modernized to "who thus" in The Hymnal 1982.

22] to the: modernized to "on the" in The Hymnal 1982.

25] omitted in the modernized Hymnal 1982.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern, ed. William Sandys (London: Richard Beckley, 1833), pp. 147-48. PR 1195 C2S2 1973 Music Library Toronto.
First publication date: 1696
Publication date note: Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady, Supplement to New Version of the Pslams of David (1696).
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/6/28

Rhyme: abcb

Other poems by Nahum Tate