In Bethlehem city, in Judaea it was,
That Joseph and Mary together did pass,
All for to be tax-ed when thither they came,
For Caesar Augustus commanded the same.
Then let us be merry, cast sorrow away,
Our Saviour Christ Jesus was born on this day.
But Mary's full time being come as we find,
She brought forth her first-born to save all mankind;
The inn being full of the heavenly Guest,
No place could she find to lay Him to rest.
Blest Mary, blest Mary, so meek and so mild,
All wrapped up in swathing this heavenly Child,
Contented she laid where oxen do feed,
The great God of nature approved of the deed.
To teach us humility all this was done,
To learn us from hence haughty pride for to shun.
The manger His cradle Who came from above,
The great God of mercy, of peace and of love.
Then presently after the shepherds did spy,
Vast numbers of angels did stand in the sky;
So merry were talking, so sweetly did sing,
"All glory and praise to the heavenly King!"
Lucy Broadwood and J A Fuller Maitland.1893, English County Songs
, Leadenhall Press, London
Collected by Lucy Broadwood from Mrs Wilson, near King's Langley, Herts.
According to The New Oxford Book of Carols
(1992, p. 506; note to "A Virgin Unspotted"), the earliest known version of the text is in New Carolls for this Merry Time of Christmas
(London, 1661), and the tune [different one?] is found for the first time in The Compleat Psalmodist
(1741) by John Arnold, of Great Warley, Essex, in a four-part setting. The tune to this carol (but with different words) in William Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time
, vol. 2, p. 642) is that to "Admiral Benbow." "A Virgin Unspotted" in Bramley and Stainer's Christmas Carols New and Old
(1871, no. III) has a somewhat similar tune.
These versions are at Bodleian Libray Broadside Ballads.
A Virgin Most Pure (or "Carol").
The Virgin Unspotted
(Search Roud index at VWML)
A Virgin Unspotted