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)

Away in a Manger

Away in a Manger is a popular carol throughout the English speaking world. While it”s hard to get an exact ordering of which carols are sung most we have some indication from a 1996 Gallop Poll in Britain which revealed it as the joint second most popular Christmas carol, sharing the spot with O Come All Ye Faithful.

While the precise author of the carol Away in a Manger is unknown, there has been speculation that it could have been written by Martin Luther. This is probably just a myth however, with more evidence pointing towards the carol being authored in the late nineteenth century in the United States. We do know that it”s first appearance was in a book entitled The Little Children”s Book for Schools and Families which appeared in Philadelphia in 1885. This contained much of the modern carol, but excluded the third verse which first appears in a Charles H. Gabriel collection from 1892. This was part of the reason that the Library of Congress”s carol researcher and head of reference section Richard S. Hill concluded that it was probably a Lutheran children”s poem created for the 1883 celebration of Martin Luther”s 400th birthday.

While the lyrics in use today don”t see much variation, the music that accompanies the song isn’t set in stone. Indeed in hymn books there have been over forty different musical pieces put alongside the lyrics. There isn’t one that”s most popular everywhere either, and both the USA and UK have different musical pieces that the music most commonly. In the USA it”s Mueller, a piece written by James R. Murray in 1887. While the UK largely uses Cradle Song by William J. Kirkpatrick who was the musical director of Philadelphia”s Grace Church and a serial hymn and carol compiler – his total publications of this type amounts of eighty-seven!

Away in a Manger has influenced the idea of the Birth of Jesus substantially, although much of what is in the carol isn’t mentioned in the Bible. For instance there”s no references to cattle being present at Jesus’s birth and no mention of Jesus not crying. The idea that Jesus was unable to cry suggests super-human characteristics that Gnosticism or Apollinarianism ascribed to Christ. Some haves suggested that it”s exclusion from English Hymnal and Hymns Ancients and Modern was due to these inaccuracies. Never the less a controversy stirred in 1991 when British newspaper the Observer reported that some schools had altered the lyrics to remove Christian references, although research into this has found little factual accuracy in the report and the full lyrics are still being song across the world.


Away in a manger, No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus, Laid down His sweet head
The stars in the bright sky,Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus,Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing,The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus, No crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, Look down from the sky
And stay by my side, “Til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, And love me I pray
Bless all the dear children, In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven, To live with Thee there

High Word of God, Eternal Light

Middle age hymn from around the tenth century. Translated into English by John Mason Neale.

Performed antiphonally by a choir.

John Mason Neale Lyrics

High Word of God, eternal Light
Begotten of the Father”s might,
Who cam”st a Child, the world to aid,
As years their downward course displayed: Amen.

Our hearts enlighten from above,
And kindle with thine own true love;
That, dead to earthly things, we may
Be filled with heavenly things today.

So, when the judge’s sentence dire
Condemns the lost to endless fire,
And sweetest accents call the blest
To enter on their heavenly rest

O may we not for wilful sin
The due rewards of evin win;
But grant us, Lord thy face to see,
And heaven enjoy enternally.

To God the Father, God the Son,
And Holy Spirit, three in one,
Praise, honour, might and glory be,
Both now and in enternity. Amen.

Latin Lyrics

Verbum supernum, prodiens
A Partre olim exiens
Qui natus orbi subvenis
Cursu diclivi temporis: Amen

Illumina nunc pectora
Tuoque amore concrema;
Audito et preconia
Sint pulsa tandem lubrica.

Iudexque cum pos aderis
Rimari facta pectoris
Reddens vicem pro abditis
Iustisque regnum pro bonis,

Non demum arcemur malis
Pro qualitate criminis;
Sed cum beatis compotes
Simus perennes celibes.

Laus, honor, virtus, gloria
Dei Patri et Filio,
Sancto simul Paraclito,
In sempiterna secula. Amen.

Come, thou Redeemer of the Earth

Middle age hymn from St Ambrose (c.340-97). St Ambrose was believed in the middle ages to have invented the hymn, but while this has been shown to be false he did write many, including this one. Translated into English by John Mason Neale.

Performed antiphonally by a choir. Sung only at first Nativity vespers on Christmas Eve.

John Mason Neale Lyrics

Come, thou Redeemer of the earth,
And manifest thy virgin birth
Let every age adoring fall:
Such birth befits the God of all.

Begotten of no human will,
But by the Spirit, Thou art still,
The Word of God in flesh arrayed,
The promised Fruit to man displayed.

The virgin womb that burden gained
With virgin honour all unstained;
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in His temple dwells below.

Forth from his chamber goeth he,
That royal home of purity,
A giant, in twofold substance one,
Rejoicing now his course to run.

From God the Father he proceeds,
To God the Father back he speeds;
His course he runs to death and hell,
God’s throne to dwell.

O equal to the Father, thou!
Gird on thy fleshly mantle now;
The weakness of our mortal state
With deathless might invigorate.

Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
And darkness breathe a newer light
Where endless faith shall shine serence
And twilight never intervene

All glory to the Father be;
Glory, enternal Son, to thee;
All glory, as is ever meet,
To God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.

Latin lyrics

Veni, Redemptor gencium,
Ostende partum virginis.
Miretur omne seculum:
Talis decest partus Deum.

Non ex virili semine
Sed mistico spiramine
Verbum Dei factum caro,
Fructusque ventris floruit.

Alvus tumescit virginis,
Claustra pudoris permanent;
Vexilla virtutum micant;
Versatur in templo Deus.

Procedens de thalamo suo,
Pudoris aula regia,
Gemine gigas substancie
Alacris ut currat viam.

Egressus eius a Patre,
Regressus eius ad Patrem;
Excursus usque ad inferos,
Recursus ad sedem Dei.

Equalis eterno Patri
Carnis tropheo accingere,
Ingirma nostri corporis
Virtute firmans perpetim.

Presepe iam fulget tuum,
Lumenque nox spirat novum
Quod nulla nox interpollet,
Fideque iugi laceat.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
Eiusque soli Filio,
Cum Spiritu Paraclito,
Et nunc et in perpetuum. Amen.

Angels from the Realms of Glory

Angels from the Realms of Glory is a carol written by James Montgomery. The carol is usually sung to the tune of the French carol Les anges dans nos campagnes (which due to this usage has become known as Iris, the name of Montgomery”s newspaper)due to the similarities in their opening stanzas. In the USA however the tune of Regent Square by Henry Smart is used, which is also used in England for the carol Light”s abode, celestial Salem. It first appeared in the Sheffield Iris on 24th December 1816, a newspaper edited by the author. It was marked out from other carols at the time by its religious character – others were predominantly focused on eating!

Born to an Ayrshire clergyman in 1771, James Montgomery initially failed school, was taken on as an apprentice baker, before escaping to become an apprentice publisher to Mr Gales who published the Sheffield Register, a radical newspaper. Montgomery took over the Register after Mr Gales, fearing the consequencs of his eulogies of the French Revolution, left for France in 1794.

Under Montgomery the paper, which changed name to the Sheffield Iris, became less radical, although Montgomery was still imprisoned twice for libel – the first time for publishing a song of the storming of the Bastille, and a second for the coverage of a local riot. After 31 years as edior, the Paper was taken over by a rival in 1825.

After retiring in 1825, Montgomery dedicated his life to producing religious verse. In total he produced over four-hundred hymns and was involved in the adaptation of many more.


Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o”er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation”s story,
Now proclaim Messiah”s birth:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
Watching o”er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant Light;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great desire of nations,
Ye have seen His natal star;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

O Come All Ye Faithful

One of the most popular Christmas hymns in the English language, O Come All Ye Faithful, has it roots in another emensely popular Christmas carol, Adeste Fideles, to the tune of which it provides English lyrics. Often featured as the final hymn in Christmas servies on Christmas Eve. The popularity of the carol worldwide is such that it also goes by the name “The International Carol” and the history of the carol lives up to its global reach today.

The origins of Adeste Fideles were disputed up until 1947 when it was finally established that both the music and the latin words of four verses were composed by John Francis Wade (1711 – 1786), an Englishman who had previously been resident in Lancashire who was living in a Roman Catholic college in Douai, Northern France. One of the main reasons for a dispute over authorship was that Wade was a music copyist who would reproduce sheet music before this could be done by printing press.

Prior to being finally attributed to Wade other candidates for the potential authorship had included the Italian Saint Bonaventura, English organist John Redding as well as various others of among others German and Portuguese nationality. The Portuguese attribution is perhaps the most understandable due to their role in popularising the song. Some still maintain to this day that the music comes from a Portuguese source.

Wade”s music sounds very similar to Charles Simon Favart”s Le Comte d”Acajou, and it”s not clear if Wade was borrowing from this or parodying it, or even if Favart”s borrowed from Wade. Perhaps both had inspiration for another composer, both Handel and Thomas Arne (who Wade knew) have been suggested. The timing of the music shifts between duple and triple time.

The first appearance of the Adeste Fideles in London is probably from its 1782 publishing, although it had appeared 22 years earlier in France without the accompanying music. The Portuguese connection comes in when it was played at their London embassy in 1795. Translations into English began in 1789 with a version which begins “Come, faithful all, rejoice and sing”.

The translation of Adeste Fideles into what is now known as O Come All Ye Faithful was the product of a London Anglican, Frederick Oakeley (1802-1880). His first attempt at a translation began “Ye Faithful, approach ye”. This was first song at Margaret Chapel, Marylebone, London in 1841 although it wasn”t until he converted from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1845 after becoming unpopular in the Anglican church for his style of preaching, that a version of his lyrics we now know which were first published in 1852 in Murray”s hymnal.

Often Oakesley”s three verses are used in addition to verses by William Brooke (1848-1917) including one more by himself, most commonly making up a seven verse song. Brooke was another convert, but this time from Baptism to the Church of England. He translated Adeste Fideles from the original Latin to English. Verses by Oakesley make up the first, second, sixth and seventh verses of this expanded version. William Brooke”s expanded addition appeared in the Altar Hymnal of 1884. Despite the addition of verses by Brooke the English carol, even in it”s full seven verses, is one less than Adeste Fideles.

Oakeley”s 1852 translation is by far the most popular version of the carol today, but there”s over fifty competing translations available (there were 38 by 1892 when John Julian published the Dictionary of Hymnology).

Wade”s music for Adeste Fideles was widely used for various psalms and songs in both Catholic and Protestant congregations in English from it”s first published appearance in the country in the 1782 An Essay on Church Plain Chant. For instance it”s used in the Psalm 104 and for the hymn Begone, Unbelief by John Newton. The music was called the Portuguese hymn despite the fact the author is now known to be Wade. This was perhaps due to the Duke of Leeds hearing it played at a Portuguese Chapel in 1795 popularising the name Portuguese Hymn by commissioning Thomas Greatorex to produce a version for his Concerts of Antient Music. Still some believe that the hymn is originally Portuguese, with it”s composer being Marcos Portugal (1762-1830).

Alternative First Lines used in other versions:

  • Approach, all ye faithful
  • Assemble, ye faithful
  • Come, faithful all, rejoice and sing
  • Draw nigh, all ye faithful
  • Hither, ye faithful, haste with songs of triumph
  • Ye faithful, approach ye


O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God”s holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.