A gorgeous tune from 1927, composed by Peter Warlock as a setting for a poem written by a journalist named Bruce Blunt. It won a newspaper contest and supplied some money for the impecunious pair to go out drinking. Unlike most Christmas carols, it includes death. It seems about right for 2020, not least because it is very beautiful in spite of the drawbacks I’ve mentioned.

Bethlehem Down

“When He is King we will give him the King’s gifts,
Myrrh for its sweetness, and gold for a crown,
Beautiful robes”, said the young girl to Joseph
Fair with her first-born on Bethlehem Down.

Bethlehem Down is full of the starlight
Winds for the spices, and stars for the gold,
Mary for sleep, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold.

When He is King they will clothe Him in grave-sheets,
Myrrh for embalming, and wood for a crown,
He that lies now in the white arms of Mary
Sleeping so lightly on Bethlehem Down.

Here He has peace and a short while for dreaming,
Close-huddled oxen to keep Him from cold,
Mary for love, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold.