A Feast of Songs
Holiday Music from the Middle Ages

Lyrics and translations from the CD by Barry and Beth Hall

More about the CD and the artists

A Feast of Songs - CD cover


Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virgine:

Tempus adest gratiae,
Hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae
Devote redamus.

Ezechielis porta
Clausa pertransitur
Unde Lux est orta
Salus invenitur.

Ergo nostra contio
Psallat iam in lustro,
Benedicat Domino
Salus Regi nostro.

English Translation:

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Christ is born of the Virgin Mary; Rejoice!

The time of grace has come for which we have prayed
Let us devoutly sing songs of joy.

The closed gate of Ezekiel has been passed through
From where the light has risen (the East), salvation is found.

Therefore, let our assembly sing praises now at this time of purification
Let it bless the Lord: greetings to our King.

Green grow’th the holly 
attributed to King Henry VIII, c. 1520

Green grow'th the holly,
So doth the ivy,
Though winter blasts
Blow ne’er so high;
Green grow'th the holly.

Mors vitae propitia
France, c. 1200

Mors vitae propitia
Sexta passus ferria,
Mortis a miseria
Nos direxit
Die Christus tertia, Resurrexit

Angeli consortia
Sexta passus ferria,
Nostra spes et Gloria
Nos direxit
Die Christus tertia, Resurrexit

Amen di cant amnia, Resurrexit!

Personent Hodie
Melody from Bavarian manuscript (1360)
Lyrics from Piae Cantiones (Finnish manuscript) 1582

Personent Hodie, Voces pueruale,
Laudantes jucunde, Qui nobis est natus,
Summo Deo datus,
Ideo gloria in excelsis deo!

In mundo nascitur;
Pannis involvitur;
Praesepi ponitur
Stabulo brutorum
Rector supernorum;
Perdidit spolia
Princeps Infernorum.

Magi tres venerunt;
Munera offerunt;
Parvulum inquirunt,
Stellulam sequendo,
Ipsum adorando,
Aurum, thus et myrrham
Ei offerendo.

Omnes clericuli,
Pariter pueri,
Cantent ut angeli:
'Advenisti mundo:
Laudes tibi fundo
Ideo: Gloria
In excelsis Deo'.

English translation:
Let children's voices resound today, merrily praising him who has been born, sent by almighty God and brought forth from a virgin's womb.

He was born into the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and placed in the manger in a cattle shed, the Lord of the heavens, the Prince who destroyed the spoils of hell.

Three wise men appeared; they offered gifts and asked for a boy-child, following a star; they worshipped him, offering him gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Let all the clerics, and likewise the boys, sing like the angels: "You have come to the world; therefore I pour out praises to you: Glory to God in the highest!

Quem pastores laudavere
Words and music 14th century German manuscript

Quem pastores laudavere,
Quibus angeli dixere,
"Absit vobis jam timere:
Natus est Rex Gloriae!"

Ad quem reges ambulabant,
aurum, thus, myrrham portabant,
immolabant hæc sincere
Leoni victoriæ.

Christo regi, Deo nato,
per Mariam nobis dato,
merito resonet vere
Laus honor et gloria.

English Translation (free):
Shepherds sang their praises o'er him,
Called by angels to adore him:
"Have no fear, but come before him:
Born is now your glorious King!”

Eastern Sages came to view him,
Judah’s conquering Lion knew him,
Gold and myrrh, and incense to him
As their tribute offering

Christ our King, from Mary springing
God made man, salvation bringing
Thee we worship, ever singing:
“Honor, praise and glory be!”

Christmas Eve
Traditional English lyrics (freely modified by B. Hall)

The Lord at first did Adam make
Out of the dust and clay
And in his nostrils breathed life
Or so the scriptures say
And then in Eden’s paradise
He placed him to dwell
That he within it should remain
To dress and keep it well

Let all good people now begin
A worthy life to live,
And to rejoice, and merry be,
For this is Christmas Eve.

Now for the blessings we enjoy
Which are from heaven above
Let us be thankful and aspire
To live in perfect love
Then shall we do as we would have
The world do unto all
And share the bounty of the Earth
With all both great and small

And now the time is nigh at hand
In which this season came
Let us rejoice and merry be
In keeping of the same
Let’s feed the poor and hungry souls
And such as do we live
For in the end, the love we take
Is borne from love we give

Coventry Carol
England, 16th century

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
Lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing
By, by, lully, lullay.

Herod the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All children young to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever morn and day,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Masters In This Hall
Alternate Title: Nowell, Sing We Clear
Tune: French
English Lyrics by William Morris, 1834-1896

Masters in this hall, hear ye news today.
Brought from o’er the sea and ever I you pray.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell sing we clear!
Holpen are all folk on Earth, born is God’s Son so dear!
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell sing we loud!
God today hath poor folk raised and cast a-down the proud.

Going o'er the hills, through the milk-white snow,
Heard I ewes bleat, while the wind did blow.

Shepherds many an one, sat among the sheep,
No man spake more word, than they had been asleep.

Quoth I, "Fellows mine, why this guise sit ye?
Making but dull cheer, shepherds though ye be? 

"Shepherds should of right leap and dance and sing,
Thus to see ye sit, is a right strange thing".

Quoth these fellows then, “To Bethlem town we go,
To see a mighty lord lie in manger low".

"How name ye this lord, shepherds?' then said I,
"Very God," they said, "Come from Heaven high".

Then to Bethlem town, we went two and two,
And in a sorry place, heard the oxen low.

Therein did we see, a sweet and goodly may
And a fair old man, upon the straw she lay.

And a little child, on her arm had she,
"Wot ye who this is?" said the hinds to me.

Ox and ass him know, kneeling on their knee,
Wondrous joy had I, this little babe to see.

This is Christ the Lord, masters be ye glad!
Christmas is come in, and no folk should be sad.

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 288-291. Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp.80-3. He notes, at page 258, "In Sedding’s “Ancient Christmas Carols” this carol is said to be translated from the French."



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