Friday, December 9, 2011

December 10

Madonna and Child in Glory with Cherubs
by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

What Child is This?
performed by The Choir of St John's Church,
Elora, Ontario, Canada.

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

"What Child Is This" was written by English poet and lay theologian William Chatterton Dix as a poem entitled "The Manger Throne". It was first used as a hymn text in Sir John Stainer's Christmas Carols New and Old, 1871. Its well-known tune, "Greensleeves", is a traditional English ballad with an interesting history. The earliest known publication of this tune is in two books of 1580. One is by Richard Jones, entitled "A new Northerne Dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves", and the other is by Edward White: "A ballad, being the Ladie Greene Sleeves Answere to Donkyn his frende".

William Shakespeare mentions it twice in "The Merry Wives of Windsor":

I would have sworn his disposition would have gone to the truth of his words; but they do no more adhere and keep place together than the Hundredth Psalm to the tune of 'Green Sleeves.'

(Act II, Scene one)

Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of 'Green Sleeves.'

(Act V, Scene five)

Another one of its early appearances as a hymn tune was as the setting for “Carol for New Year’s Day, to the tune of Green Sleeves". "The old year now is fled" is from a black-letter collection printed in 1642, and can be found in the Ashmoleon Library in Oxford.

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