Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” first appeared in print as a poem in the Boston Christian Register, a few days after Christmas in 1849. Edmund Sears, pastor of the Unitarian, First Parish Church in Wayland, Massachusetts wrote it.

Sears was originally from the western Massachusetts town of Sandisfield. The following year, 1850, composter Richard Storrs Willis wrote the tune that is most often played to this song in the US. (The United Kingdom has another melody to this song.)

Here is the poem Mr. Sears wrote that became one of most popular traditional Christmas carols:

It came upon the midnight clear,


That glorious song of old,


From angels bending near the earth,


To touch their harps of gold:


"Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,


From heaven's all-gracious King."


The world in solemn stillness lay,


To hear the angels sing.


Still through the cloven skies they come,


With peaceful wings unfurled,


And still their heavenly music floats


O'er all the weary world;


Above its sad and lowly plains,


They bend on hovering wing,


And ever o'er its Babel sounds


The bless├Ęd angels sing.


Yet with the woes of sin and strife


The world has suffered long;


Beneath the angel-strain have rolled


Two thousand years of wrong;


And man, at war with man, hears not


The love-song which they bring;


O hush the noise, ye men of strife,


And hear the angels sing.


And ye, beneath life's crushing load,


Whose forms are bending low,


Who toil along the climbing way


With painful steps and slow,


Look now! for glad and golden hours


come swiftly on the wing.


O rest beside the weary road,


And hear the angels sing!


For lo!, the days are hastening on,


By prophet bards foretold,


When with the ever-circling years


Comes round the age of gold


When peace shall over all the earth


Its ancient splendors fling,


And the whole world give back the song


Which now the angels sing.


For more on the First Parish Church in Wayland, established in 1640, have a look at this website.

1 comment:

John Hayes said...

A beautiful hymn--the British melody is quite striking as well, & very different.