The words to the carol Once in Royal David's City were written by Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander in 1848, published in a collection of Hymns for Little Children. Like all truly good works "for children" (The Chronicles of Narnia come to mind!), today this hymn is loved by Christians of all ages. Mrs. Alexander, wife of the Bishop of Derry, wrote numerous poems for children; most, like this one, were religious in nature. The words to this poem narrate the events of the nativity in beautiful language.
The music for Once in Royal David's City was composed by Henry J. Gauntlett in 1849.
Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.
He came down to earth from Heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.
And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.
For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in Heav’n above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in Heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.
Words: Mrs. Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895)
Music: "Irby," Henry John Gauntlett (1805-1876)
Recording Sarah recommends: Choir of King's College, Cambridge. You can find this carol on several of their different Christmas collections. I actually can't remember if my recording was conducted by David Willcocks or Stephen Cleobury... it's on my computer back at school! But it's a beautiful recording... the treble solo is gorgeous.