Monday, 1 April 2013

The world itself keeps Easter Day

The world itself keeps Easter Day,
And Easter larks are singing;
And Easter flowers are blooming gay,
And Easter buds are springing.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
The Lord of all things lives anew,
And all His works are rising too.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

There stood three Maries by the tomb
On Easter morning early
When day had scarcely chased the gloom,
And dew was white and pearly.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
With loving, but with erring mind
They came the Prince of Life to find,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

But earlier still the angel sped,
His news of comfort giving;
And "Why," he said, "among the dead
Thus seek ye for the living?"
Alleluia! Alleluia!
"Go tell them all, and make them blest,
Tell Peter first, and then the rest."
Alleluia! Alleluia!

But one, and one alone, remained,
With love that could not vary;
And thus a joy past joy she gained,
That sometime sinner, Mary.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
The first the dear, dear form to see
Of Him that hung upon the tree.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The world itself keeps Easter day,
Saint Joseph's star is beaming;
Saint Alice has her primrose gay,
Saint George's bells are gleaming;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
The Lord hath risen, as all things tell;
Good Christians, see ye rise as well!

This is one of a number of carols John Mason Neale wrote for tunes in Piae Cantiones (others I've posted include 'Earth today rejoices', 'Spring has now unwrapped the flowers' and 'Athens'). The tune in this case, according to the Oxford Book of Carols, is 'O Christe, rex piissime', which I can't find a recording of on the internet, but you can read the sheet-music here.  Many versions omit the last verse of this carol, perhaps because the flowers named are a little obscure.  The names aroused my curiosity, but only after much Google-booking was I able to find out the following: 'St George's bells' are bluebells; 'St Alice's primrose' is the variety of primrose mentioned in this old book; and I think 'St Joseph's star' might be the speedwell.  (For those of you unfamiliar with English spring flowers, they look like this: speedwell, primrose and bluebell). The point is that they are spring flowers which grow in England around those saints' days (St Alice = St Adelaide, whose feast is February 5; St Joseph in March; and St George in April). It's been a long and a cold spring in this part of the world, and it isn't over yet - but today the sun is shining, the flowers are out, and the birds are singing.  The world is keeping Easter Day.


Suzannah said...

Hello there :). Just dropping a comment to say that I love your blog! Thank you!

Clerk of Oxford said...

Hello! Thanks for stopping by - I enjoy your blog very much! :)