The words to this carol were penned by William Chatterton Dix (1837–1898) and an initial published in Christmas Carols brand-new and Old, First series (London: Novello, 1868 | Fig. 1), edited by John Stainer and Henry Bramley. Tiny is known about the situations behind this famous text through Dix, other than he to be living in Glasgow, Scotland in ~ the time, working as an insurance money broker in a naval insurance office.


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An portrayed edition of Christmas Carols brand-new and Old (1871), incorporating carol from the an initial Series (1868) and 2nd Series (1870), contained an engraving because that Dix’s message by W.J. Wiegand, mirroring Mary and Joseph v the Christ child, juxtaposed with the crucifixion aspects named in stanza 2, “Nails, spear, candlestick pierce Him with / The overcome be borne because that me, for you” (Fig. 2).

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II. Text: Analysis

Dix’s message looks top top the Incarnation story (Luke 2, Matthew 2) through a sense of wonder, inquiring “What kid is this ... Whom angels greet?” and he answers the question, “This is Christ the King.” The second stanza likewise begins with a question, asking why this royal child is lied in together lowly (“mean”) accommodations, climate reminding listeners just how this kid will be treated horrifically together an adult on our behalf. The referral to ox and also ass is one allusion come Isaiah 1:3 (“The oxknows its owner, and also the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel doesnot know, my civilization do no understand”). The 3rd stanza names the gifts of the magi and invites the listener to take part in a solution of worship.

Hymnologist Carl Daw detailed the ability in Dix’s craft:

Rather 보다 being a basic 8.7.8.7 v refrain, it is really 8.7.4.4.7.6.8.6.7 rhyming as abccbddef, with the c rhymes being half lines, the b rhymes gift unstressed rhymes, and also the f luck attached to an invariable line; furthermore, the first word that the seventh line is constantly repeated, together is the of the fifth line in the very first and critical stanzas.<1>

Hymnals and carol books with execution eliminating the 2nd halves that the last 2 stanzas and also treating the first ending as a refrain shed the complete scope the Dix’s masterly work.

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III. GREENSLEEVES

The acquainted tune GREENSLEEVES has a lot longer and also more complicated history than the carol text. This format of melody is taken into consideration Italian in affect (especially the romanesca and/or the passamezzo antico), a layout not well-known to have actually been imported in England prior to 1550. Nonetheless, this track is occasionally dated come the reign of Henry VIII (1509–1547) ~ above the basis of a quote in the city “Satyra prima” by Edward (or Everard) Guilpin in Skialetheia, or a Shadowe that Truth (1598): “Yet favor th’ olde ballad of the lord of Lorne / who last heat in King Harries dayes to be borne,” introduce to a ballad “The lord of Lorne,” which was sung to the tune of GREENSLEEVES. The ballad (or sections of it) can be older 보다 the tune, or the recommendation to Henry VIII could be entirely fanciful; the track itself to be not pointed out in this poem.

In despite the of that obscure origins, there to be a sudden rush of applications at the Stationers’ firm for licenses regarded this tune, starting on 3 September of 1580, with Richard Jones registering “A new Northern Dittye the the Lady Greene Sleeves,” and on the very same day Edward White registering “A ballad, being the Ladie Greene Sleeves Answere to Donkyn his frende.” Twelve job later, a religious version was registered as “Greene Sleves moralised come the Scripture, advertising the manifold benefites and also blessings the God bestowed ~ above sinful man.” none of these original printings it seems to be ~ to have survived.

The earliest surviving to press of a tune or ballad intended to be sung come GREENSLEEVES is “A newballad, advertising the greattreasonconspired against the young king of scots … come the track of Milfield, or els to Greenesleeues,” by wilhelm Elderton, registered 30 may 1581 and printed in London. The original broadside is organized by the society of Antiquaries that London (https://www.sal.org.uk | Fig. 3).