Words: Joost van den Vondel, in his play Gijsbrecht van Aemstel (after Act 3), 1637. The lyrics are sometimes incorrectly attributed to Henricus Selyns, who brought them to Brooklyn in 1600, and used them with an addition as
Bridal Torch. Translated from Dutch to English by Howard Murphy, 1865.
O Christmas night! Day’s light transcending,
Who no beginning had or end
Till He a man became, was God.
Then He who ne’er before was human
Was born in Bethlehem of woman,
When nips the frost the verdant sod.
This richest Babe comes poor in being,
More pearled within than to the seeing
With diadem and royal power;
He takes no heed of greater places,
But that small spot alone embraces,
Where light illumes the midnight hour.
This Prince, do they desire to find Him?
They’re worn out swaddling clothes that bind Him.
A manger, spread with hay’s His bed.
His throne is higher than the highest,
Yet He among the cattle lieth;
What Him to such a lot has led?
Now seeks He God with chaste affection
Who takes before such crib direction,
Are better than this Bethlehem,
Which Christ no resting place shall give;
For they, the after life, shall live
With Him, in Jerusalem.