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The night the Babe was born,
A star lit up the sky,
The darkness vanished from the earth
And songs came from on high,
Bringing gifts of myrrh and gold
And frankincense from lands a-far.
Came wise men of the East,
Who journeyed on to Bethlehem
Led by the shining star.

And on that starry night,
A calm fell on the earth.
The world at last was filled with love
Because Mary gave birth.
All the creatures shared the joy
And gathered round the oxen stall,
Where Jesus laid in peace:
A tender, helpless Babe,
Yet born a King to save us all.

To shepherds in the fields
Appeared a glorious light,
An angel came and stood before them
All glorious in white.
Then the angel told the shepherds
Of the Truth, the Life, the Way
With praise they danced and sang
And played upon their pipes,
New tunes to celebrate that day.

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Source: Singing Together, Autumn 1984, BBC Publications

This is identified as an Italian carol and is taken from The Lindsay Carol Book .

The Shorter New Oxford Book of Carols has this as #122 under the name 'Quando nascette Ninno', identifies it a Neapolitan traditional and gives the Italian along with these notes:

For many centuries, during the period before Christmas mountain shepherds have descended on Rome, Naples, and other cities in southern Italy and Sicily, clad in sheepskin cloaks and wide-brimmed hats and singing and playing pastoral music such as this carol. They accompany each other on the ciaramella (a small shawm) and the zampogna, a large, sweet-toned bagpipe with two drones and two chanters, which is played mostly in thirds and sixths with some embellishment.

Many eighteenth-century composers used the pastoral siciliana rhythm of the Italian shepherds to suggest Christmas: the aria 'He shall feed his flock' in Handel's Messiah is remarkably similar to the melody of 'Quando nascette Ninno', and it is possible that Handel heard it during his time in Rome as a young man, in 1707-9.


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