Saturday, May 2, 2009

The First Noel.

       "The First Noel" (also written "The First Noël" and "The First Nowell") is a traditional classical English Christmas carol, most likely from the early modern period, although possibly earlier. Noel is an Early Modern English synonym of "Christmas".
        In its current form, it is of Cornish origin, and it was first published in Carols Ancient and Modern (1823) and Gilbert and Sandys Carols (1833), both of which were edited by William Sandys and arranged, edited and with extra lyrics written by Davies Gilbert for Hymns and Carols of God. Today, it is usually performed in a four-part hymn arrangement by the English composer John Stainer, first published in his Carols, New and Old in 1871. Variations of its theme are included in Victor Hely-Hutchinson's Carol Symphony.
       The melody is unusual among English folk melodies in that it consists of one musical phrase repeated twice, followed by a refrain which is a variation on that phrase. All three phrases end on the third of the scale. It is thought to be a version of an earlier melody sung in a church gallery setting; a conjectural reconstruction of this earlier version can be found in the New Oxford Book of Carols.
       The Annunciation to the shepherds and the Adoration of the shepherds are episodes in the Nativity of Jesus described in the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2). The Star of Bethlehem appears in the story of the Magi (the Wise Men) in the Gospel of Matthew; it does not appear in the story of the shepherds.
 
The first Nowell the Angels did say,
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields
as they lay;
In fields where they lay, keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star,
Shining in the East beyond them afar;
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.

And by the light of the same star,
Three Wise Men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.

The star drew nigh to the northwest,
O'er Bethlehem it took its rest;
And there it did both stop and stay,
Right over the place where Jesus lay.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell
Born is the King of Israel.

Then did they know assuredly
Within that house the King did lie;
One entered in then for to see
And found the Babe in poverty.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.

Then entered in those Wise Men three
Most reverently upon their knee,
And offered there in His presence
Both gold and myrrh, and frankincense.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.

Between an ox-stall and an ass
This Child, truly there, born He was;
For want of clothing they did Him lay
All in the manger among the hay.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
That hath made heaven and earth of nought,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
Born is the King of Israel.

author unknown, Old English plus French words

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