Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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Ixxxiii
proclaimed to the Gentiles the birth of our Saviour. At the time of its appearance also there was a general expectation that the fulfilment of the pro­phecy respecting the birth of Christ was at hand. But this is matter of too serious a nature to be dis­cussed in a work of the present description, which must treat of the traditionary history only of the three kings; and if some of my readers may sur­mise that part of it has the appearance of fable, in good sooth I cannot vouch for its veracity. It is as I found it.
The Venerable Bede, in the 7th century, is the first writer in this country who gives a particular description of them, which he probably took from some earlier tradition. Melchior, the first, was old, and had grey hair, with a long beard; he offered gold to Christ, in acknowledgment of his sove­reignty. Gaspar, or Jasper, who was young and had no beard, offered frankincense, in recognition of the divinity of our Lord. Balthazar, the third, was of a dark or black complexion, as a Moor, with a large spreading beard, and offered myrrh to our Saviour's humanity; according to these lines in " Festa Anglo-Romana," p. 7.
Tres Reges Regi Regum, tria dona ferebant;
Myrrham Homini, Uncto aurura, thura dedere Deo.
Or, as Sandys gives them,
Three kings, the King of Kings, three gifts did briug; Myrrh, incense, gold, as to Man, God, a King. Three holy gifts be likewise given by thee To Christ, even such as acceptable be. For myrrha tears ; for frankincense, impart Submissive prayers ; for pure gold, a pure heart.*
Bede also describes their dresses, &c.; and in numerous old pictures and popular representations,
* Sandys's Travels, p. 141.

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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III