Nowell sing we (Anonymous)

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  • (Posted 2005-10-17)  CPDL #09979:   
Editor: Robin Doveton (submitted 2005-10-17).   Score information: A4, 1 page, 115 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Scored for ATB. Text modernised. Revised Sept. 2020.
  • (Posted 2000-11-27)  CPDL #01726:     
Editor: Christopher R. Baker (submitted 2000-11-27).   Score information: A4, 1 page, 456 kB   Copyright: CC BY 1.0
Edition notes: edited by J. A. Fuller Maitland. Scored for AT. MAITLAND 6 §0505 English, 15th Century from a MS. Roll in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge English Carols of the Fifteenth Century, edited by J.A. Fuller Maitland; Leadenhall Press, 1891

General Information

Title: Nowell sing we
Composer: Anonymous

Number of voices: 3vv   Voicing: ATB, or AT
Genre: SacredCarol

Languages: Middle English, Latin
Instruments: A cappella

First published: 1891 in English Carols of the Fifteenth Century (Maitland)

External websites:

Original text and translations

Middle_English.png Middle English text

There are some slight differences in what is claimed to be the original text. Likewise, translations will vary. The following version and notes are taken from this site.

Nowell sing we, both all and some
Now Rex pacificus a is come.

Exortum est b in love and lysse.1
Now Christ His grace He gan2 us gysse,3
And with His body us bought to bliss,
Both all and some.

De fructu ventris c of Mary bright,
Both God and man in her alight,
Out of disease4 He did us dight,5
Both all and some.

Puer natus d to us was sent,
To bliss us bought, fro bale6 us blent,7
And else to woe we had ywent,
Both all and some.

Lux fulgebit e with love and light,
In Mary mild His pennon pight,8
In her took kind9 with manly might,
Both all and some.

Gloria tibi f ay and bliss,
God unto His grace He us wysse,10
The rent11 of heaven that we not miss,
Both all and some.

  1 delight; release; remission; ease; relief
  2 began
  3 distress
  5 put
  6 misery; calamity; misfortune; sorrow, evil, pernicious influence
  7 turned
  8 placed; pitched
  9 nature
10 guide
11 reward

a The King of Peace
b It occurred
c Of the fruit of the womb
d A baby boy
e The Light shall shine
f Glory to Thee


  • Rex Pacificus:
Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you, a just saviour he is, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem: the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. (Zech. 9:9-10)
His empire shall be multiplied and there shall be no end of peace. He shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom: to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isa. 9:7)
  • Exortum est:
Unto the godly a light is risen up in the darkness, he is merciful, loving and righteous. (Old translation of Psalm 111:4)
Rise up in splendor! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory. (Isa. 60:1-2)
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. To them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. (Isa. 9:2)
  • De fructus ventris:
And it came to pass, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe in her womb leapt. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of they womb!” (Luke 1:41-2)
  • Puer natus:
For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Father Forever, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6)
Also, ‘Puer natus’ was the name of the Christmas mass during Christmas day.
  • Lux fulgebit:
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. To them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. (Isa. 9:2)
And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness grasped it not. (Jn. 1:5)
Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me does not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn. 8:12)
Also, ‘Lux fulgebit’ was the name of the Christmas mass at dawn.
  • Gloria tibi:
A fourth century hymn by St. Ambrose, used in the liturgy of the hours.
1. Veni, Redemptor gentium;
Ostende partum virginis;
Miretur omne saeculum.
Talis decet partus Deo.
8. Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui natus es de virgine,
Cum Patre et saneto Spiritu,
In sempiterna saecula.
9. O Jesu, Virgin-born, to thee
Eternal praise and glory be,
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Spirit, evermore