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Once in Royal David’s city (Irby)


Henry J. Gauntlett


R. Mather

SATB and organ

C.F. Alexander.


Once in royal David's city
   stood a lowly cattle shed,
where a mother laid her baby
   in a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
   Jesus Christ her little child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
   who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
   and his cradle was a stall;
with the poor, the scorned, the lowly,
   lived on earth our Saviour holy.

And, through all his wondrous childhood,
   he would honour and obey,
love and watch the lowly maiden
   in whose gentle arms he lay:
Christian children all must be
   mild, obedient, good as he.

For he is our childhood's pattern,
   day by day like us he grew;
he was little, weak and helpless,
   tears and smiles like us he knew.
and he feeleth for our sadness,
   and he shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see him,
   through his own redeeming love;
for that Child who seemed so helpless
   is our Lord in heaven above;
and he leads his children on
   to the place where he is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
   with the oxen standing round,
we shall see him; but in heaven,
   set at God's right hand on high;
when like stars his children crowned,
   all in white shall wait around.


Once in royal - arr Mather

Once in royal - with descant arr Mather

Created 15-Sep-08 Revised 15-Feb-15

Once in Royal Davidís city

Once In Royal David's City was originally a poem written by Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander, who in 1848 married an Anglican clergyman, and in 1867, upon her husband's consecration, thereby became a bishop's wife.


Once In Royal David's City was published in 1848 in Miss Cecil Humphreys' hymnbook Hymns for little Children. A year later, H.J. Gauntlett discovered the poem and set it to music.

Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols

Since 1919, the King's College Chapel (King's College, Cambridge) has begun its Christmas Eve service, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, with "Once in Royal David's City" as the processional. The first verse is sung by a boy chorister of the Choir of King's Chapel as a solo, who is chosen from the choir only moments before the service. The second verse is sung by the choir, and the congregation joins in the third verse. The arrangement, by A H Mann, is slightly different in harmony from the setting in Hymns Ancient and Modern. As the service is broadcast live on the BBC World Service, it is estimated that there are millions of listeners worldwide who tune in to this service.

"The City"

The city that the song speaks of is Bethlehem, which the New Testament records as the historical birthplace of Jesus and also of his ancestor King David.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Metasyntactic variable".

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