Bethlehem Down

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"Bethlehem Down" is a choral anthem or carol composed in 1927 by Anglo-Welsh composer Peter Warlock (1894–1930) (the pseudonym of Philip Arnold Heseltine) and set to a poem written by journalist and poet Bruce Blunt (1899–1957).[1] It is a popular anthem used in the Anglican church during the liturgical seasons of Christmastide and Epiphany. Warlock wrote it to finance an "immortal carouse" (a heavy bout of drinking) on Christmas Eve 1927 for himself and Blunt, who were experiencing financial difficulty. The pair submitted the carol to The Daily Telegraph's annual Christmas carol contest and won.[2]

The carol also exists as a song for voice and piano.


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.


  1. ^ Warlock P – "Bethlehem Down", Choir of St John's College, Cambridge
  2. ^ "Bethlehem Down: A carol by Peter Warlock" Archived January 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine by Mike Leuty in Claves regni: The Online Magazine of St. Peter's Church, Nottingham with All Saints, published by St. Peter's Church, Nottingham. Accessed 24 January 2007.

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