Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The Wexford (or Enniscorthy) Carol

Musicologists differ on the precise origins of 'the Wexford Carol' or 'the Enniscorthy Carol,' and even upon its proper designation, it seems.  William D. Crump's The Christmas Encyclopedia, for example, fails to attribute it to the 12th Century, as many do, at least as regards the tune.  We are unable to source the basis of this claim of antiquity.  What is certain is that Dr. the Chevalier Grattan-Flood (1859-1928), Titular Organist of Enniscorthy Cathedral, claims to have transcribed the Carol, both tune and lyrics, from a local man and published them in The Oxford Book of Carols (1928) as 'the Wexford Carol.'  However, subsequent research has found that the first verses are very close to a Carol found in William Devereux’s A New Garland Containing Songs for Christmas (1728).

At any rate, 'the Wexford Carol' can be sung with a special joy by Irish, especially Wexford, voices this Christmastide.

The Wexford Carol

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved Son.

With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born.

The night before that happy tide,
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town.

But mark right well what came to pass
From every door repelled, alas,
As was foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble ox's stall.

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep,
To whom God's angel did appear,
Which put the shepherds in great fear.

Arise and go, the angels said,
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you'll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born.

With thankful heart and joyful mind,
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God's angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold.

Within a manger he was laid
And by his side a virgin maid,
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife.

There were three wise men from afar,
Directed by a glorious star,
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay.

And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah lay,
They humbly cast them at his feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.

An Irish Translation of the first four verses:

Ó, tagaig' uile is adhraigí
An leanbh cneasta sa chró 'na luí
Is cuimhnígí ar ghrá an Rí
A thug dár saoradh anocht an Naí.

'S a Mhuire Mháthair i bParrthas Dé,
Ar chlann bhocht Éabha guigh 'nois go caomh,
Is doras an chró ná dún go deo
Go n-adhram' feasta Mac Mhuire Ógh.

I mBeithil thoir i lár na hoích'
Ba chlos an deascéala d'aoirí,
Go follas don saol ón spéir go binn
Bhí aingle 'canadh ó rinn go rinn.

"Gluaisig' go beo," dúirt Aingeal Dé,
"Go Beithil sall is gheobhaidh sibh
É 'Na luí go séimh i mainséar féir,
Siúd É an Meisias a ghráigh an saol."

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