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Hymn Author

Nahum Tate

(1652 – 1715)

TUNE: Winchester Old

While Shepherds watched their flocks

Nahum Tate was Poet Laureate during the reign of Queen Anne. Tate in collaboration with Nicholas Brady published the famous (?) New version of the Psalms of David. The hymn ‘While shepherds watched…’ was published in 1703 and is regarded as Tate’s work alone, though some scholars disagree. A version of three stanzas, each combined of two smaller ones, was done by Sir Arthur Sullivan and set it to the tune ‘Bethlehem’.


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


“Fear not,” he said,(for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled minds)
“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 heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed
And meanly wrapped in swaddling bands
And in a manger laid.”


Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song


“All glory be to God on high
And to the earth be peace;
Goodwill henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease!”