Friday, December 24, 2010

"Brightest and Best"

“On Old Christmas Eve we’d sit fore the fire and Mom and Dad and Granny’d atell us about the baby Jesus born in a stable on this night, and they’d say that if we’d go out at midnight we’d see the elderberry bush blooming in the fence corner right in the snow, and that if we’d peep in through a chink in our stable and make no racket atall we’d see the cow and the old mule kneeling, paying honor to the little King of Kings. Then maybe Granny’d sing us her Christmas carol, “Brightest and Best,” in the old mountain tune, and we’d all sing some…That used to be our Christmas.”

Jean Ritchie, Singing Family of the Cumberlands
University Press of Kentucky, 1988

Brightest and Best

Hail the blest morn
See the Great Mediator
Down from the regions of Glory descend!
Shepherds, go worship the Babe in the manger,
Lo, for the a guard the bright angels attend.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on His Cradle the dew-drops are shining
Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining
Maker and Monarch and Savior of all.

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favor secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Shall we not yield Him in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and offerings divine,
Gems of the mountains and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?

Note: Jean Ritchie (born in 1922) is the best known and most respected singer of traditional ballads in the United States. Born in Viper, Kentucky, she comes from a family of musicians who have preserved folk traditions for generations.

This Melungeon Studies blog entry was lifted shamelessly from a back issue of Dave Tabler's ever-excellent Appalachian History blog.

To visit it: Click Here.

For more on Jean Ritchie: Click Here.

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