A Boy was Born

Cantata by (Edward) Benjamin Britten (1913 - 1976)

Word count: 819

1. Theme: A Boy was Born [sung text checked 1 time]

A Boy was born in Bethlehem,
Rejoice for that, Jerusalem! 
He let himself a servant be,
That all mankind He might set free: 
Then praise the Word of God who came
to dwell within a human frame: 


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. Variation I: Lullay Jesu [sung text checked 1 time]

Mine own dear mother, sing lullay!
Lullay, Jesu, lullay, lullay!
Mine own dear mother, sing lullay!

So blessed a sight it was to see,
How Mary rocked her Son so free;
So fair she rocked and sang 'by-by'.

'Mine own dear son, why weepest Thou thus?
Is not Thy Father King of bliss?
Have I not done that in me is?
Your grievance, tell me what it is.

''Therefore, mother weep I nought,
But for the woe that shall be wrought
To me, ere I mankind have bought.'

Ah, dear mother! yet shall a spear
My heart in sunder all to-tear;
No wonder though I careful were.'

Now, dear mother, sing lullay,
And put away all heaviness;
Into this world I took the way,
Again to (heaven) I shall me dress,
Where joy is without end ay,
Mine own dear mother, sing lullay!'
Lullay, Jesu, lullay, lullay!
Mine own dear mother, sing lullay! 


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

3. Variation II: Herod [sung text checked 1 time]

Herod that was both wild and wode,
Full much he shed of Christian blood,
To slay the Child so meek of mood,
that Mary bare, that clean may

Herod slew with pride and sin,
Thousands of two year and within;
The body of Christ he thought to win
And to destroy the Christian fay

Mary with Jesu forth yfraught
As the angel her taught,
To flee the land till it were sought,
To Egypt she took her way.

Now Jesus that didst die for us on the Rood,
And didst christen innocents in their blood,
By the prayer of Thy mother good,
Bring us to bliss that lasteth ay.


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

4. Variation III: Jesu, as Thou art our Saviour [sung text checked 1 time]

Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, Jesu,
Save us all through Thy virtue.

Jesu, as Thou art our Saviour
That Thou save us fro dolour!
Jesu is mine paramour.
Blessed be Thy name, Jesu.

Jesu was born of a may,
Upon Christëmas Day,
She was may beforn and ay,
Blessed be Thy name, Jesu.


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. Variation IV: The Three Kings [sung text checked 1 time]

There came three kings fro Galilee
Into Bethlehem, that fair city,
To seek Him that should ever be by right-a,
Lord and king and knight-a.

They took their leave, both old and ying,
Of Herod, that moody king;
They went forth with their 
offering by light-a,
By the star that shone so bright-a.

Till they came into the place
Where Jesus and His mother was,
Offered they up with great solace in fere-a
Gold, incense, and myrrh-a.

Forth then went these kingës three,
Till they came home to theri country;
Glad and blithe they were all three
Of the sight that they had see bydene-a


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

6. Variation V: In the bleak mid-winter / Corpus Christi Carol [sung text checked 1 time]

Note: this is a multi-text setting

 In the bleak mid-winter
 Frosty wind made moan;
Earth [stood]1 hard as iron,
 Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
 [Snow on snow]2,
In the bleak mid-winter
 [Long]3 ago.

[ ... ]


See other settings of this text.

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRI Frisian (Geart van der Meer) , copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) [singable] (Bertram Kottmann) , copyright © 2014, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

View original text (without footnotes)
First published in Scribner's Monthly, January 1872
1 Trotta: "grew"
2 omitted by Trotta.
3 Trotta: "Long, long"
4 omitted by Walton?

Researcher for this text: Sharon Krebs [Guest Editor]

Lully, lulley, lully, lulley,
The falcon hath borne my make away.

He bare him up, he bare him down,
He bare him into an orchard brown.

In that orchard there was an hall
That was hangëd with purple and pall.

And in that hall there was a bed,
It was hangëd with gold so red.

In that bed there lieth a knight,
His woundës bleeding, day and night.

By that bedside kneeleth a may,
And she weepeth both night and day.

And by that bedside there standeth a stone,
Corpus Christi written thereon. 


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

7. Variation VI: (Finale) Noel! [sung text checked 1 time]

Noel! Wassail! Good day, good day,
My Lord Sir Christëmas, good day!

Good day, Sir Christëmas our King,
For every man, both old and ying,
Is glad of your coming. Good day

Godës Son so much of might
From heaven to earth down is light
And born is of a maid so bright. Good day. 

Noel! Our King! Hosanna! 
This night a Child is born.

'Get ivy and hull, woman, deck up thine house,
And take this same brawn for to seethe and to souse;
Provide us good cheer, for thou knowest the old guise,
Old customs that good be, let no man despise.
At Christmas be merry and thank God of all,
And feast thy poor neighbours, the great and the small.
Yea, all the year long have an eye to the poor,
And God shall send luck to keep open thy door.
Good fruit and good plenty do well in thy loft,
Then lay for an orchard and cherish it oft.
The profit is mickle, the pleasure is much;
At pleasure with profit few wise men will grutch.
For plants and for stocks lay aforehand to cast,
But set or remove them, while Twelve-tide do last.

Welcome be Thou, heaven-king,
Welcome born in one morning,
Welcome for whom we shall sing 
Welcome Yule.

Welcome be ye that are here,
Welcome all, and make good cheer,
Welcome all another year! 

Welcome Yule.

Glory to God on high, and jolly mirth,
'Twixt man and man, and peace on earth!

Wassail, Wassail! 
Lully, lulley, lully, lulley...

Noel! Noel!
Herod that was so wild and wode.

Mine own dear mother... Jesu, Jesu!

This night a Child is born;
This night a Son is given;
This son, this Child
Hath reconciled
Poor man that was forlorn,
And the angry God of Heaven.
Hosanna, sing Hosanna!

Now, now that joyful day,
That blessed hour is come,
That was foretold
In days of old,
Wherein all nations may
Bless, bless the virgin's womb.
Hosanna, sing Hosanna!

Let heaven triumph above,
Let earth rejoice below;
Let heaven and earth
Be filled with mirth,
For peace and lasting love
Atones your God and you.
Hosanna, sing Hosanna! 


Note: this poem incorporates and interleaves several texts by Tusser, Quarles, and Anonymous (16th century).
Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]