147. The First Nowell

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1 The first Nowell the angel 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.

Refrain:
Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell,
born is the King of Israel.

2 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]

3 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]

4 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]

5 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]

6 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 our life hath bought. [Refrain]

Text Information
First Line: The first Nowell, the angel did say
Title: The First Nowell
Publication Date: 2013
Meter: Irregular
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:8-20; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:7-8
Topic: Christian Year: Nativity/Christmas; Christian Year: Epiphany; Jesus Christ: Birth
Source: English carol; Some Ancient Christmas Carols, 2nd ed., 1823, alt.
Language: English
Refrain First Line: Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell
Tune Information
Name: THE FIRST NOWELL
Meter: Irregular
Key: D Major
Source: English carol; Sandys’ Christmas Carols, 1833


Text Information:

“Nowell” is the English form of the French “noel,” a shout of joy formerly used at Christmas (as in Chaucer’s “Franklin’s Tale”), a clue that the word is older than its first printing. It may have Latin and French roots related to “born” (natus / né) as well to “news” (nova / nouvelle).


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Audio recording: Audio (MP3)
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