This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Monday, 28 December 2015

New hymns 6 - While Shepherds Watched

In this slot we have previously invited along John Henry Newman, King David, Charles Wesley, Christina Rossetti, and William Williams to attend master-classes on how to write a good "modern" hymn. Today, we are pleased to welcome Nahum Tate, Poet Laureate (from 1692 to 1715), and author of "While shepherd watched their flocks by night".

At least one of these is Nahum Tate.

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

Other versions are available.

Eccles: Whoah! Stop! You've got something there that looks like poetry. What's more it makes sense, and tells a story. In fact the whole hymn is recognisable as a faithful rendering of Luke 2, verses 8 to 14.

Nahum: Sorry, Eccles, I produced this carol before your previous master-classes on hymn-writing. Can you suggest some improvements?

Eccles: We could go for the Bernadette Farrell treatment, maybe, as seen in "Christ be our Light". You make things sound gloomy and depressing, but we know that, since we are socially-aware Tablet readers, it must be someone else's fault.

Out in the fields, shepherds are freezing,
Out in the cold, shepherds have woes,
Some of them coughing, some of them sneezing,
And one with a runny nose.
CHORUS: Christ be our light, etc.

Nahum: When do we get to the angel of the Lord and his message of Good News?

Eccles: Probably, never. We have another three verses about how there was a leak in the roof of the shepherds' hovel, one of them had a blister on his toe, and...

I'm allergic to wool, but does anyone care?

Nahum: Well, I really wanted to mention the shepherds, sheep, angel and Baby. Could we do it more punchily?

Watch, Shepherds, Watch, Keep an eye on your cuddly lambkins;
Baa, Muttons, Baa, Do whatever sheep do;
Shine, Angel, Shine, Tell the Good News to all the shepherds;
Cry, Baby, Cry, They are off to see you...

Eccles: I like it, but it does sound vaguely familiar. Can't think why...


  1. If we are going to have William Williams (Methodist) could we also include Ralph Vaughan Williams (Anglican, er, that is to say, self-described as cheerful agnostic) in the re-education programme? He is reported to have said something along the lines of, if people must sing hymns, the least I can do is to give them some good rousing tunes.

    Obvs he needs to be instructed, forciblyif necessary, in the proper composition of liturgical wallpaper (what a lovely phrase!).

    1. liturgical wallpaper must be difficult to say when plastered

    2. I think St. Corbyn should have a go, he'd blame the Massacre of the Innocents on an austerity move by the Tory, Herod: a cut on family allowance.

      Whilst Tories fleeced the flock by night,
      Their coffers were soon loaded.
      A tax man of the Crown came to the site
      Claiming the sheep were not baaa-coded

  2. German shepherds wrote this hymn for their sheep to be sung at any Mass anywhere:

    "We're sheep! We're sheep! We're brave and we're bold!
    We go where we want and not where we're told."