The Feast of the Epiphany: The first Nowell

We sometimes think of this as a Christmas hymn, but it’s really an Epiphany hymn. Text is after the jump.

The first Nowell the angel did say
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
in fields as 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 far,
and to the earth it gave great light,
and so it continued both day and night. Refrain

And by the light of that 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. Refrain

This 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. Refrain

Then entered in those wise men three
full reverently upon their knee,
and offered there in his presence
their gold, and myrrh, and frankincense. Refrain

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. Refrain

Words: traditional English carol, seventeenth century

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1 Response

  1. Byron Stuhlman says:

    For me, as for the Lutherans, the real Epiphany hymn is Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern. Unfortunately, the version in our hymnal bears little relation to the German text, which is better represented by the version used by the Lutherans. But the best version of this, as of many German hymns, is that of Catherine Winkworth:

    O Morning Star! how fair and bright,
    thou beamest forth in truth and light!
    O Sovereign meek and lowly!
    Sweet Root of Jesse, David’s Son
    my King and Bridegroom, thou hast won
    my heart to love thee solely!
    Lovely art thou, fair and glorious,
    all victorious,
    rich in blessing,
    rule and might o’er all possessing.

    O King high-born, Pearl hardly won,
    true Son of God and Mary’s Son,
    crown of exceeding glory!
    My heart calls thee a Lily, Lord,
    pure milk and honey is thy Word,
    thy sweetest Gospel-story.
    Rose of Sharon, hail! Hosanna!
    Heavenly Manna,
    feed us ever.
    Lord, I can forget thee never!

    Clear Jasper, Ruby fervent red,
    deep, deep within my heart now shed,
    the glow of love’s pure fire.
    Fill me with joy, grant me to be
    thy member closely joined to thee,
    whom all my thoughts desire;
    toward thee longing doth possess me,
    turn and bless me,
    for thy gladness,
    eye and heart here pine in sadness.

    But if thou look on me in love,
    there straightway falls from God above,
    a ray of purest pleasure;
    thy Word and Spirit, flesh and blood,
    refresh my soul with heavenly food,
    thou art my hidden treasure.
    Let thy grace, Lord, warm and cheer me,
    O draw near me;
    thou has taught us
    thee to seek, since thou hast sought us.

    Lord God, my Father, mighty shield,
    thou in thy Son art all revealed,
    as thou hast loved and known me;
    thy Son hath me with him betrothed,
    in his own whitest raiment clothed,
    he for his bride will own me.
    Hallelujah! Life in heaven
    hath he given,
    with him dwelling,
    still shall I his praise be telling.

    Then touch the chords of harp and lute,
    let no sweet music now be mute,
    but joyously resounding.
    Tell of the marriage-feast, the Bride
    the heavenly Bridegroom by her side,
    ‘mid love and joy abounding;
    shout for triumph, loudly sing ye,
    praises bring ye,
    fall before him,
    King of kings, let all adore him.

    Here my heart rests, and holds it fast,
    the Lord I love is First and Last,
    the End as the Beginning!
    Here I can die, for I shall rise
    through him to his own Paradise,
    above all tears and sinning:
    Amen! Amen! Come, Lord Jesus,
    soon release us,
    with deep yearning,
    Lord, we look for thy returning!