A medieval Christmas carol

This anonymously penned 15th century hymn is frequently sung in choral settings at Christmas concerts, to a variety of tunes, the best-known of which is by Peter Warlock (and may currently be heard at http://www.missionstclare.com/music/christmas/adam_lay/adam.html).


Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond,
Four thousand winter
Thought he not too long;
And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took,
As clerkës finden
Written in their book.

Ne had one apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Ne had never Our Lady
A been Heaven's Queen.
Blessèd be the time
That apple takèn was.
Therefore we moun singen:
Deo gratias!

The song tells of the human race (personified by Adam, fallen from grace) awaiting the birth of the one who will be Christ. Humankind is bound in sin for the millenia following the Fall is long, but the release from bondage to Death will be worthwhile.

The writer also feels that the original sin was a blessing in that it enabled The Virgin Mary to reign in heaven as Queen - Mariolatry at its extreme.

I once sang this song in a choral event at Leicester Cathedral, and even though I am neither religious nor keen on the Yuletide season, I nonetheless get a shivery nostalgic feeling whenever I hear it.

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