Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.@Luke 2:8
illustration
From Christmas Carols New and Old, 1871

John H. Hopkins, Jr., in Carols, Hymns and Songs (New York: Church Book Depository, 1863), pages 9-10 (🔊 pdf nwc).

portrait
John H. Hopkins, Jr. (1820-1891)

At Bethlehem, in wintry cold,
The faithful shepherds guard their fold:
The crowded town is sunk in sleep,
While midnight vigil still they keep.
And rocks and hills are ringing,
While they, to shield their sheep from harm,
And keep themselves awake and warm,
Are cheerily, loudly singing,

Refrain

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah,
Praise the Lord!

Their fleecy flocks are gathered round,
All lying on the frosty ground,
And new-born lambkins may be seen,
Close nestling, here and there, between.
Their shepherds thus surrounding,
With tuneful heart and wakeful ear,
Their livelong night they love to hear,
The rocks and hills resounding,

Refrain

When lo! an angel, from on high,
Came sailing down the starry sky;
A glory all around him shined,
And left a track of light behind.
His way thus swiftly winging,
From far he smiles with radiant joy,
That shepherds thus their voice employ,
All night in sweetly singing—

Refrain

Fear not, said he—for at the sight
The simple shepherds start with fright—
Fear not, for unto you this morn
In David’s town a Babe is born:
Tis Christ, your Lord and Savior,
Whose reign, when He is crownèd King,
Shall make both men and angels sing,
For ever and for ever.

Refrain

While yet he spake, in robes of flame
A flying cloud of angels came;
Upon the midnight air loud rang
Their golden harps, while thus they sang:
To God on high be glory:
And peace on earth, good will to men!

Angels and shepherds joining then,
Thus hail the wondrous story,

Refrain

Their leader then those hosts obey,
Unfold their wings and soar away
Yet loud their golden strings they ply
All singing, harping, as they fly;
Chorus to chorus calling.
Till past the stars they disappear,
That song the listening shepherds hear,
Still faint and fainter falling,

Refrain

Then straight they go to Bethlehem,
Their flocks all following after them;
They find the Babe in manger laid,
With Joseph and the mother-maid;
Before Him lowly kneeling,
They tell their tale: the infant King
Smiles sweetly on them while they sing,
With joy that cavern thrilling,

Refrain

Returning, they the tale repeat
Through all the long day-dawning street;
From door and window crowds look out,
To hear their strange, yet joyous shout.
Their sheep still follow, bleating;
And all that hear the shepherds’ song,
With burning heart and tingling tongue,
Send on the angelic greeting—

Refrain

And every Christmas-tide, that song
More numerous sounds, and yet more strong;
From age to age, from pole to pole,
It rolls along, and yet shall roll:
Till, crowned with splendor glorious,
That Babe shall come again, a King,
And saints and angels all shall sing,
In endless, boundless chorus—

Refrain