Angels we have Heard on High

The English translation of this carol was originally by James Chadwick, the Roman Catholic bishop of Hexham and Newcastle. It was first published, alongside the English tune, in The Holy Family Hymns in 1860. It became popular in the West Country, with R.R. Chope describing it as “Cornish” and the carol appearing in Pickard-Cambridge”s Collection of Dorset Carols.

Although some early descriptions such as by J.P. Migne in 1867 stated that the original French carol was an “old noel from Lorraine”, many contend that it in fact dates from either the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. The first printed appearance was in Abbe Lambillottee”s Choix de cantigues sur des airs nouveaux in 1842, and interviews with elderly French-Canadian singers for a 1907 book by Ernest Myrand found that non remember the carol from their childhood, but remember it becoming popular only in the 1840s.


Angels we have heard on high,
Singing sweetly o”er the plains,
And the mountains in reply,
Echoing their joyous strains

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds why this jubilee
Why your joyous straings prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Come to Bethlehem and see
Him whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee
Christ the Lord, the new-born King!

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

See him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

Alternative English lyrics

Angels, we have heard your voices,
Sweetly singing o”er the plains;
Mount, and crag and hill replying,
Echo still your joyous strains:

Shepherds, why this jubilation?
Why this ecstasy of song?
Tell us what may be the tidings
That inspired the heavenly throng?

Come and see in Bethlem”s city
Him whose birth the angels sing;
And, on bended knee, adore him,
Christ the Lord, the new-born King!

See, within a manger lying,
Jesus, Lord of heaven and earth;
Aid us, Mary, aid us, Joseph,
To acclaim our Saviour”s birth.

Original French lyrics

Les Anges dans nos campagnes,
Ont entonné l’hymne des cieux ;
Et l’écho de nos montagnes
Redit ce chant mélodieux :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Bergers, pour qui cette fête ?
Quel est l’objet de tous ces chants ?
Quel vainqueur ? quelle conquête ?
Mérite ces cris triomphants :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Ils annoncent la naissance
Du Libérateur d’Israël ;
Et pleins de reconnaissance,
Chantent, en ce jour solennel :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Cherchons tous l’heureux village
Qui l’a vu naître sous ses toits ;
Offrons-lui le tendre hommage,
Et de nos cœurs et de nos voix :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Dans l”humilité profonde
Où vous paraissez à nos yeux ;
Pour vous louer, roi du monde,
Nous redirons ce chant joyeux :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Toujours remplis du mystère
Qu”opère aujourd”hui votre amour,
Notre devoir sur la terre
Sera de chanter, chaque jour :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Déjà les bienheureux Anges,
Les Chérubins, les Séraphins ;
Occupés de vos louanges,
Ont appris à dire aux humains :
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)

Dociles à leur exemple,
Seigneur, nous viendrons désormais
Au milieu de votre temple,
Chanter avec eux vos bienfaits.
Gloria in excelsis Deo (bis)