Corde natus ex parentis

Last year I found not a few nativity poems with which to mark the season. Rather than repeat the exercise I thought this year I would locate and share some carols. I'm intrigued by their folk-song provenance, their consonance with poetry, and above all their endurance. I'll go fossicking for their histories, and try to turn up some treasures. (“Caroling,” by the way, comes from something Greek choruses used to do, roughly equivalent to dancing in a circle. We don't quite do that at our sedate carols nights, but the impulse of communal joyousness is beautifully present.)

This is one of the world's oldest Christmas carols, written in the late fourth century by a Roman Christian, Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, a provincial governor who later served in the court of Emperor Theodosius I. This translation from 1851 renders the refrain “saeculorum saeculis” as “evermore and evermore,” but this Latin phrase from the Vulgate can also be rendered, as the Prayer Book has it, “world without end.”  I've never heard it but apparently it's still sung in some corners.

Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

At His Word the worlds were framed;
He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean
In their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun,
Evermore and evermore!

He is found in human fashion,
Death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children
Doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below,
Evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessed,
When the virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Saviour of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
Evermore and evermore!

O ye heights of heaven adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him,
and extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore!

This is He Whom seers in old time
Chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore!


Christ, to Thee with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be:
Honour, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!