Shiloh (William Billings)

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  • (Posted 2020-05-15)  CPDL #58628:       
Editor: James Wetzel (submitted 2020-05-15).   Score information: Letter, 7 pages, 101 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes:
  • (Posted 2016-04-24)  CPDL #39399:       
Editor: Barry Johnston (submitted 2016-04-24).   Score information: Unknown, 1 page, 89 kB   Copyright: Public Domain
Edition notes: Note shapes added (4-shape). All ten stanzas included.
  • (Posted 1999-08-31)  CPDL #00041:        (Finale 1998)
Editor: Rafael Ornes (submitted 1999-08-31).   Score information: Letter, 2 pages, 51 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: In verse 8, “second to” should be “second in”. (Very important distinction!)

General Information

Title: Shiloh
First Line: Methinks I see a heavenly host
Composer: William Billings
Lyricist: William Billings

Number of voices: 4vv   Voicing: SATB
Genre: SacredCarol

Language: English
  Meter: 86. 86 (C.M.) Instruments: A cappella

First published: 1786 in The Suffolk Harmony, no. 1, p. 1
Description: This Old Testament Hebrew word used by Isaiah the prophet means "Messiah" and foretells the birth of Jesus 600 years before the event. As was customary in New England Psalm Singing, songs with similar words were given a variety of musical treatments. This song first appeared in The Suffolk Harmony in 1786.

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

1. First Shepherd
Methinks I see an heavenly Host
Of angels on the wing;
Methinks I hear their cheerful notes,
So merrily they sing.
2. First Angel
Let all your fears be banished hence,
Glad tidings I proclaim;
For there is a Savior born today
And Jesus is his name.
Lay down your crooks and quit your flocks,
To Bethlehem repair;
And let your wandering steps be squared
By yonder shining star.
Seek not in courts or palaces;
Nor royal curtains draw;
But search the stable,
See your God extended on the straw.


5. Narrative
Then learn from hence, ye rural swains,
The meekness of your God,
Who left the boundless realms of joy,
To ransom you with blood.
The master of the inn refused
A more commodious place;
Ungenerous soul of savage mold
And destitute of grace.
7. First Angel
Exult ye oxen, low for joy,
Ye tenants of the stall;
Pay your obeisance; on your knees
Unanimously fall.
The royal Guest you entertain
is not of common birth,
But second in the great I Am,
The God of heaven and earth.


9. Narrative
Then suddenly a heavenly Host
around the shepherds throng,
exulting in the three-fold God,
and thus addressed their song.
10. Grand Chorus
To God the Father, Christ the Son,
And Holy Ghost accord
The first and last, the last and first
Eternal praise afford.

From Suffolk Harmony, 1786, p. ii