The Christmas Story – The Shepherds

Arundel 83 f.124 Annunciation to the Shepherds Annunciation to the Shepherds from The De Lisle Psalter (England, c.1310-c1320) shelfmark Arundel 83 f.124.
 Arundel 157 f.3v Shepherds Annunciation to the Shepherds from Prayers (England, S. E. (St Albans), c1240) shelfmark Arundel 157 f.3v.
 Harley 3954 f.14 Annunciation to the Shepherds Annunciation to the Shepherds from Sir John Mandeville Travels (England, E. (East Anglia) , 2nd quarter of the 15th century ) shelfmark Harley 3954 f.14.
 Harley 7026 f.6 Adoration of the Shepherds Adoration of the Shepherds from The Lovell Lectionary (England, S. (probably Glastonbury , between c. 1400 and c. 1410 ) shelfmark Harley 7026 f.6.
 Royal 1 D X f.1v Annunciation to the Shepherds Annunciation to the Shepherds from Psalter (England, Central (Oxford), 1st quarter of the 13th century, before 1220) shelfmark Royal 1 D X f.1v.
 Royal 2 B VI f.8v Annunciation to the Shepherds Miniature of the Annunciation to the Shepherds in the upper register and the Adoration of the Magi in the lower register from Psalter and Canticles (England, S. (St Albans), c. 1246-c. 1260) shelfmark Royal 2 B VI f.8v.
 Royal 2 B VII f.112 Annunciation Annunciation to the shepherds from The Queen Mary Psalter (England (London/Westminster or East Anglia?) , between 1310 and 1320) shelfmark Royal 2 B VII f.112.

All images above are English drawings from the British Library’s collection of Medieval Manuscripts and are marked as being Public Domain Images and therefore free of all copyright restrictions in accordance with the British Library’s Reuse Guidance Notes for the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.


While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.

Fear not, said he for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you, and all mankind.

To you in David’s town this day
Is born of David’s line,
The Savior who is Christ the Lord;
And this shall be the sign:

The heavenly babe, you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid.

Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels, praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song:

All glory be to God on high,
And to the earth be peace;
Goodwill, henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease.

Words by Nahum Tate (1652-1715)
written c1700

While Shepherds washed their socks by night
Whilst watching ITV
The Angel of the Lord came down,
And switched to BBC.

Alternative words remembered from my childhood – author unknown.  I was delighted to see the BBC2 programme ‘Rev.‘ preforming a rendition of this version in its full glory.


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You may also be interested in the following posts
– Christmas in a Tudor town
– Medieval Christmas Stories
– Images from the British Library’s online images from the early modern period
– Images from the medieval illuminated manuscripts

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