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Updated 01/14/2020

 

See, Amid the Winter's Snow

"See, amid the Winter's Snow", also known as "Hymn for Christmas Day" and "The Hymn for Christmas", is an English Christmas carol. It was written by Edward Caswall, with music composed by Sir John Goss.

Caswall was born at Yateley, Hampshire on July 15, 1814, the son of Rev. R. C. Caswall, sometime Vicar of Yateley, Hampshire. Caswall was educated at Marlborough Grammar School and Brasenose College, Oxford, where he graduated Bachelor of Arts in 1836 with honors and later proceeded to Master of Arts. In 1838 he was ordained deacon, and in 1839 priest, in the Church of England. He was curate of the Church of St Lawrence at Stratford-sub-Castle, near Salisbury from 1840 to 1847.

He resigned his curacy and, in January 1847, was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Cardinal Acton at Rome. His brother Tom had converted to Catholicism previously. Caswall's conversion caused an estrangement from some members of his family, including his mother and brother Alfred. His wife, Louisa Stuart Caswall, who had also become a Catholic, died of cholera on September 14, 1849 while they were staying at Torquay. The following year Caswall joined the Oratory of St. Philip Neri under future Cardinal Newman, to whose influence his conversion to Roman Catholicism was due. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1852. Caswall was delegated the responsibility of establishing the Oratory school, which opened in 1859. He often served as Acting Superior in Newman's absence.

He died at the Oratory, Edgbaston, near Birmingham on 2 January 2, 1878.

Caswall wrote "See, amid the Winter's Snow" shortly after converting from the Church of England to the Roman Catholic Church and joining the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri. The hymn was published earliest in 1858 as part of The Masque of Mary and Other Poems by Caswall.

The tune has been re-used in a variety of social protest and union songs in the late 20th century, beginning with "Coal, Not Dole", written in the mid-1980s by Kay Sutcliffe about the closing of the Kent coal fields to a tune by Paul Abrahams, but later reset to Goss's tune.

Sir John Goss (December 27, 1800 May 10, 1880) was an English organist, composer and teacher. Born to a musical family, Goss was a boy chorister of the Chapel Royal, London, and later a pupil of Thomas Attwood, organist of St Paul's Cathedral. After a brief period as a chorus member in an opera company he was appointed organist of a chapel in south London, later moving to more prestigious organ posts at St Luke's Church, Chelsea and finally St Paul's Cathedral, where he struggled to improve musical standards.

As a composer, Goss wrote little for the orchestra, but was known for his vocal music, both religious and secular. Among his best-known compositions are his hymn tunes "Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven" and "See, Amid the Winter's Snow". The music critic of The Times described him as the last of the line of English composers who confined themselves almost entirely to ecclesiastical music.

"See, amid the Winter's Snow" was initially composed with seven verses of four lines with a chorus after each one. The chorus' line calls for the listener to "sing through all Jerusalem, Christ is born in Bethlehem". Several hymnbooks do not contain all seven verses.

 

Lyrics by Edward Caswall

  See, amid the winter's snow,
Born for us on Earth below,
See, the tender Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Chorus:
Hail, thou ever blessed morn,
Hail redemption's happy dawn,
Sing through all Jerusalem,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies;
He who, throned in height sublime,
Sits among the cherubim.
Chorus

Say, ye holy shepherds, say,
What your joyful news today;
Wherefore have ye left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?
Chorus

"As we watched at dead of night,
Lo, we saw a wondrous light:
Angels singing 'Peace On Earth'
Told us of the Savior's birth."
Chorus

Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this.
Chorus

Teach, O teach us, Holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee,
In Thy sweet humility.
Chorus

The omitted seventh verse is as follows:

Virgin Mother, Mary blest
By the joys that fill thy breast,
Pray for us, that we may prove
Worthy of the Savior's love.