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Published on Dec 13, 2009
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"While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" (also known as "Whilst Shepherds Watched Their Flocks," "While Shepherds Watched" or "The Vision of the Shepherds") is a Christmas carol with words attributed to Irish hymnist, lyricist and England's Poet Laureate, Nahum Tate.
The exact date of Tate's composition is not known, but the words appeared in Tate and Nicholas Brady's 1700 supplement to their New Version of the Psalms of David of 1696. It was the only Christmas hymn authorised to be sung by the Anglican Church; before 1700 only the Psalms of David were permitted to be sung. It is written in common metre and based on the Gospel of Luke 2:8-14, although the gospel's "peace on earth to men of good will" is modified to the more encompassing "goodwill henceforth from heaven to men". It is the only one of the sixteen works in the 1700 supplement to still be sung today. While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground; the angel of the Lord came down, and glory shone around, and glory shone around.
"Fear not!" said he, for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind. "Glad tidings of great joy I bring to all of humankind, to all of humankind."
"To you, in David's town, this day is born of David's line a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, and this shall be the sign, and this shall be the sign:"
"The heavenly babe you there shall find to human view displayed, all meanly wrapped in swathing bands, and in a manger laid, and in a manger laid."
Thus spake the seraph and forthwith appeared a shining throng of angels praising God on high, who thus addressed their song, who thus addressed their song:
"All glory be to God on high, and to the earth be peace; good will henceforth from heaven to earth begin and never cease, begin and never cease!"