On the Tenth Day of Christmas, let us look at “While By My Sheep I Watched” (“Als ich bei meinen Schafen wacht’”), another beautiful early German carol of unknown origins. It is characterized by macaronic1 Refrain that features an echo and concludes with the Latin phrase “Benedicamus Domino!” (“Let us bless the Lord!”). It was published as early as 1615 and then again in 1623 in the Kölner Gesangsbuch (Cologne Hymnbook). Below you will find a translation of the text from that hymnal (click here for the original German).
Here are some recordings by various ensembles:
- Robert Shaw Chamber Singers
- Frankfurt Children’s Choir singing a setting by Carl Orff from his Weihnachtsgeschichte (Christmas Story) of 1948
- Salt Lake Children’s Choir
- Cedarmont Kids
As in many cases, English versions of this carol include only a few stanzas thereby missing some of the text’s most poignant moments. Look especially at the last three stanzas.
Als ich bei meinen Schafen wacht’
As I was watching my sheep,
an angel brought a message to me.
Therefore I am full of joy, I am full of joy,
Joy, joy, joy! (Echo) Joy, joy, joy!
Benedicamus Domino. (Let us bless the Lord!)
(Echo) Benedicamus Domino.
He said, “There shall be born
a Child in Bethlehem.” Refrain
He said, “The Child is lying in a stable
and shall be the Redeemer of the entire world.” Refrain
When I went to the stable to see the Child,
I truly did not want to leave. Refrain
The Child looked at me.
I gave Him my heart. Refrain
Humbly I kissed His feet.
Thereof my mouth was as sweet as sugar. Refrain
When I went home, the Child wanted to come with me
and did not want to depart from me. Refrain
The child lay down upon my chest
and gave my heart complete contentment.2 Refrain
This treasure I must keep well
so that my heart remains full of joy. Refrain
Copyright © 2015 Martin P. Dicke. All rights reserved.
This poem is sometimes attributed to Father Friederich Spee (1591-1635), a Jesuit priest who authored many other hymns. He is also known for being an outspoken opponent of the witchcraft trials that were prominent at that time.