Today I spent the day playing with a variety of cool software and using fun tools. This is my job. How lucky am I?

Today’s song is “Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing?” or “Quelle est cette odeur agreeable?” Norwegian singer Sissel sings this very beautifully, but there’s a more relaxed version   with guitar for people who don’t like big music. Casey Stratton plays it grandly with lots of background noise and sings it with lots of scooping, but it’s still a nice song.

After all, this is a song sung by shepherds. They were hanging out on the hillside, minding their flocks (okay, we used to sing “As shepherds washed their socks by night,” but they were probably minding their flocks). Shepherds, I’m told, were buried with a bit of wool to remind God that they had missed a lot of church because they were with the sheep. It was hard work, and probably dull a lot of the time, though I expect they got a good deal of knitting done.

So there they are, and all of a sudden they smell this amazing fragrance. Ravishing, in fact. It is the scent of angels. This is one of the things I love about this song: the fact that it considers what angels would smell like. I honestly had never thought about that before I heard this song, and it’s a nice thing to think about.

Anyway, the shepherds are sitting there on the hillside and their senses are overwhelmed by the beauty of this fragrance. Next comes a light brighter than the sun.The song doesn’t go on to talk about how the angels spoke to the shepherds, but you can understand their being sore afraid, can’t you? Honestly, it sounds like a visitation by a UFO, except that I think people who talk about seeing UFOs never mention the scent of the ship as it appears before them.

1. Whence is the goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away,
never the like did come a-blowing,
Shepherds, in flow’ry fields of May,
Whence is that goodly fragrance flowing,
Stealing our senses all away.

2. What is that light so brilliant, breaking
Here in the night across our eyes.
Never so bright, the day-star waking,
Started to climb the morning skies!
What is that light so brilliant, breaking,
Here in the night across our eyes.

3. Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away,
Run ye with eager footsteps vieing!
Worship the Saviour born today.
Bethlehem! there in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer haste away.

This is a French carol, from the 15th century when it was probably easier to imagine the shepherds without thinking of UFOs. You can sing it with any instrument or no instrument, I think, and of course it’s lovely with harmonies. I think you could also play this on your classical guitar to excellent effect., or on a flute or harp if you’re good at it. No snare drum, I think.