While shepherds watched their flocks by night

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While shepherds watched their flocks by night is a Christmas hymn, first published in Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady's 1700 supplement to their New Version of the Psalms of David: the text is generally attributed to Tate. It describes the annunciation to the shepherds, closely paraphrasing the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke.

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Text and translations

English.png English text

While shepherds watch'd 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 mind),
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
A Saviour, who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign.

The heav'nly 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 heavenly throng
Of angels praising God, and thus
Addressed their joyful song:

All glory be to God on high,
And to the earth be peace;
Good-will henceforth from heav'n to men
Begin and never cease!

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