What Child Is This Lyrics – Classic Christmas Carol

The Christmas season is often accompanied by the joyful sounds of classic carols, and one beloved song that captures the essence of the nativity story is “What Child Is This.” This timeless carol, with its beautiful lyrics and captivating melody, has become an integral part of the holiday tradition.

Written by William Chatterton Dix in 1865, “What Child Is This” originated during a period of illness for the author. Bedridden and contemplating the wonder of Christmas, Dix penned the lyrics to this iconic carol. The words are set to the melody of the traditional folk tune Greensleeves, which adds to the carol’s enduring charm.

Key Takeaways:

  • This classic Christmas carol, “What Child Is This,” was written by William Chatterton Dix in 1865.
  • The lyrics of the carol reflect the nativity story and the shepherds’ awe at the birth of Jesus.
  • “What Child Is This” is set to the melody of Greensleeves, a traditional folk tune.
  • The carol’s timeless appeal has cemented its place as a cherished part of the holiday season.
  • It continues to be performed and enjoyed by people of all ages during Christmastime.

Who Wrote the Christmas Carol ‘What Child Is This’?

The Christmas carol ‘What Child Is This’ was written by William Chatterton Dix in 1865. Dix, who was bedridden from a severe illness, penned the heartfelt lyrics that have since become synonymous with the holiday season.

Dix, a British writer and hymnologist, is also known for his other renowned hymns such as ‘As with Gladness Men of Old’ and ‘Alleluia! Sing to Jesus’. His profound faith and poetic talent shine through in the timeless words of ‘What Child Is This’.

“What Child is this, who laid to rest,
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?”

These poignant lyrics capture the essence of the nativity story and invite listeners to reflect on the wondrous events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

William Chatterton Dix’s ability to compose deeply meaningful and inspiring hymns has made him a celebrated figure in Christian music. His contribution to the genre continues to resonate with audiences around the world, particularly during the Christmas season.

The Meaning of ‘What Child Is This’ Lyrics

The lyrics of ‘What Child Is This’ convey the profound meaning behind this beloved Christmas carol. Rooted in the nativity story, the lyrics capture the sense of awe and wonder experienced by the shepherds who visited baby Jesus. The carol prompts contemplation of the child’s identity, proclaiming Him as Christ the King.

The symbolic imagery in the lyrics emphasizes the humble circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth. References to Him lying in a lowly manger, alongside ox and ass, serve as reminders of His humble entry into the world. This imagery contrasts the grandeur often associated with royal births, highlighting the divine significance of Jesus’ arrival.

Historical Background of ‘What Child Is This’

The Christmas carol ‘What Child Is This’ holds a rich history that dates back to the 19th century. Although the lyrics were written in 1865, the carol was not published until 1871 in the Christmas Carols New and Old collection. This delay in publication may have contributed to the initial slow recognition of the carol.

The origins of the lyrics can be traced to William Chatterton Dix, who penned the words while bedridden from a severe illness. It is believed that Dix drew inspiration from the nativity story, specifically the visit of the shepherds to baby Jesus. The carol portrays the shepherds’ sense of wonder and awe at the birth of Christ.

“What Child is This, who, laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping?”

The exact pairing of the lyrics with the tune Greensleeves is uncertain, but it is widely accepted that John Stainer, the renowned composer and music teacher, played a significant role in harmonizing the music for ‘What Child Is This’. Stainer’s connection to the tune might have contributed to its inclusion with Dix’s lyrics, creating the well-known version we know today.

Interestingly, ‘What Child Is This’ has found more popularity in the United States than in its country of origin, Great Britain. The carol has become a cherished part of the American Christmas music repertoire, performed and enjoyed during the holiday season across the nation.

history of what child is this

The Music of ‘What Child Is This’

The music for ‘What Child Is This’ is set to the traditional folk tune Greensleeves. Greensleeves, an English melody dating back to the 16th century, is widely recognized for its soulful, haunting, and beautiful qualities. It serves as a perfect accompaniment to the contemplative and reverent nature of the lyrics, enhancing the overall impact of the carol.

With its melodic flow and emotional resonance, the tune of ‘What Child Is This’ captivates listeners, transporting them to the timeless story of the nativity. The music unfolds like a gentle lullaby, evoking a sense of awe and wonder as we reflect on the miracle of Christ’s birth.

“The melody of ‘What Child Is This’ envelops you in a bittersweet embrace, inviting you to ponder the mystery and joy of the Christmas story.”
– Becky Jones, Music Critic

Greensleeves: The Timeless Melody

The melody of Greensleeves itself has endured the test of time. Its origins trace back to the Elizabethan era, capturing the essence of Renaissance music. The hauntingly beautiful composition has been adapted and reimagined by countless musicians and artists over the centuries, standing the test of time.

A Musical Marriage of Lyrics and Melody

When William Chatterton Dix penned the lyrics of ‘What Child Is This’, little did he know that his words would find their perfect companion in the melody of Greensleeves. The marriage of lyrics and melody creates a harmonious union, with each element enhancing the other’s emotional impact.

The combination of the soul-stirring melody and the heartfelt lyrics transports listeners to the scene of the nativity, conveying a sense of longing, reverence, and gratitude. It is a reminder of the profound love and sacrifice symbolized by the birth of Christ.

As the melody weaves its way through the verses, it evokes a range of emotions – from quiet introspection to soaring hope. The refrain, with its sweetly lingering notes, leaves a lasting impression, carrying the essence of the carol long after it fades away.

Key Features of the Music Effects on Listeners
Ethereal melody with a touch of melancholy Creates a sense of peace and contemplation
Gentle and steady rhythm Invites reflection and introspection
Harmonies that ebb and flow Evoke emotion and enhance the lyrical narrative
Subtle variations and nuances in the phrasing Capture the depth and meaning of the lyrics
Dramatic crescendos and decrescendos Heighten the emotional impact of the carol

Music of What Child Is This

Popularity Factors Reasons
Timeless Lyrics The lyrics of ‘What Child Is This’ beautifully capture the wonder and awe of the nativity story, resonating with people across generations.
Beautiful Melody The hauntingly beautiful melody of the carol, set to the traditional folk tune Greensleeves, adds to its appeal and emotional impact.
Religious Significance As a hymn celebrating the birth of Christ, ‘What Child Is This’ holds a special place in the hearts of those who observe Christmas for its religious significance.
Cultural Tradition Over time, ‘What Child Is This’ has become ingrained in the cultural tradition of Christmas, with its frequent performances in churches and holiday events.
Enduring Appeal The carol’s ability to evoke strong emotions and inspire reflection on the true meaning of Christmas has ensured its enduring popularity.

Other Famous Carol Lyrics by William Chatterton Dix

William Chatterton Dix, the author of ‘What Child Is This’, gifted the world with other cherished carols and hymns. His compositions encompass the beauty and reverence of the Christmas season, captivating audiences with their heartfelt melodies and thoughtful lyrics. Some of his notable works include:

  1. ‘As with Gladness Men of Old’: A hymn that celebrates the joyous arrival of the Magi to pay homage to the newborn King. The lyrics inspire gratitude and awe for the gift of Jesus’ birth.
  2. ‘Alleluia! Sing to Jesus’: This hymn invites believers to lift their voices in praise and adoration of Jesus, recognizing Him as the powerful and victorious Son of God.

“As with Gladness Men of Old” quote: “As with gladness men of old Did the guiding star behold, As with joy they hailed its light, Leading onward, beaming bright; So, most gracious Lord, may we Evermore your splendor see.”

“Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” quote: “Alleluia! Not as orphans Are we left in sorrow now; Alleluia! He is near us, Faith believes, nor questions how; Though the cloud from sight received Him When the forty days were o’er,

Shall our hearts forget His promise: ‘I am with you evermore’?”

The hymns by William Chatterton Dix, like ‘What Child Is This’, continue to inspire and resonate with people around the world. Their enduring popularity testifies to the timeless beauty and spiritual depth of his compositions.

Selection of William Chatterton Dix’s Hymns

Hymn Title Description
‘As with Gladness Men of Old’ A hymn celebrating the arrival of the Magi and inviting believers to rejoice in the birth of Jesus.
‘Alleluia! Sing to Jesus’ A hymn of praise and adoration for the exalted Savior, reminding believers of His abiding presence.

These hymns, written by William Chatterton Dix, continue to enrich the Christmas music repertoire and remind listeners of the profound significance of Jesus’ birth.

Musical Arrangements of ‘What Child Is This’

Over the years, ‘What Child Is This’ has been arranged and performed in various musical styles and by different artists. The carol lends itself well to both traditional and contemporary interpretations, allowing musicians to showcase their creativity and bring a fresh perspective to the lyrics and melody.

From orchestral arrangements to acoustic renditions, there is a wide range of musical interpretations available, ensuring that ‘What Child Is This’ continues to resonate with diverse audiences. Musicians have explored different genres like classical, jazz, gospel, and even rock to add their unique touch to this timeless Christmas carol.

Traditional Arrangements

Many artists and choirs prefer to keep the traditional essence of ‘What Child Is This’ by using classic arrangements. These arrangements often feature lush orchestration and harmonies that evoke a sense of reverence and nostalgia. Traditional arrangements typically showcase the beauty of the original Greensleeves tune and allow the lyrics to shine.

Contemporary Interpretations

Contemporary interpretations of ‘What Child Is This’ bring a modern twist to the carol while still honoring its rich history. Artists, such as Josh Groban, Mannheim Steamroller, and Pentatonix, have released versions that blend elements of pop, rock, and R&B, attracting younger audiences and breathing new life into the song.

Instrumental Variations

‘What Child Is This’ also lends itself well to instrumental interpretations. Musicians have created beautiful piano arrangements, guitar solos, and orchestral renditions that allow the melodies to take center stage. These instrumental variations provide listeners with a chance to appreciate the beauty of the song without the distraction of vocals.

World Music Influences

Some artists have incorporated world music influences into their arrangements of ‘What Child Is This’. By infusing elements of different cultures and musical traditions, these interpretations celebrate the universality of the Christmas story and introduce new flavors and rhythms to the carol.

Arrangement Description
Classical Orchestration Traditional arrangement featuring a full symphony orchestra with soaring strings and majestic brass sections. Emphasizes the carol’s timeless beauty and religious significance.
Jazz Trio A swinging jazz rendition of ‘What Child Is This’ with piano, bass, and drums. Includes improvisation and syncopated rhythms that add a lively and playful vibe to the carol.
Acoustic Folk Stripped-down arrangement using acoustic guitars, banjos, and gentle percussion. Gives the carol a rustic and intimate feel, reminiscent of a cozy winter evening by the fireplace.
Gospel Choir An uplifting gospel-inspired arrangement featuring a powerful choir and soulful vocal solos. Infuses the carol with joyful harmonies and energetic rhythms that inspire celebration.

Whether you prefer a traditional rendition or a contemporary twist, there is a musical arrangement of ‘What Child Is This’ that will resonate with your personal taste. The versatility of this beloved Christmas carol ensures that it remains a cherished part of holiday celebrations around the world.

Musical Arrangements of What Child Is This

Cultural Significance of ‘What Child Is This’

‘What Child Is This’ holds immense cultural significance as a timeless Christmas carol that resonates with people across generations. The combination of its beautiful lyrics and captivating melody evokes the true spirit of the holiday season and serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of Christmas.

This beloved carol has become deeply ingrained in popular culture, extending beyond religious settings to be embraced and enjoyed by people of all backgrounds. Its enduring popularity is a testament to its universal appeal and its ability to touch the hearts of listeners around the world.

“What Child Is This’ has a unique ability to transport listeners to the heart of the nativity story and reminds us of the miracle and wonder that Christmas brings.”

In addition to its widespread popularity, ‘What Child Is This’ has been prominently featured in various Christmas-themed movies, television shows, and commercials. Its inclusion in these forms of media further solidifies its status as a beloved and iconic Christmas song, ensuring that its cultural significance endures.

cultural significance of What Child Is This

The impact of the lyrics of ‘What Child Is This’ is profound. The carol encourages reflection on the true meaning of Christmas and the significance of Jesus’ birth. It invites listeners to contemplate the humble circumstances of His arrival and to celebrate the hope and joy that His presence brings.

With each rendition and performance, ‘What Child Is This’ deepens its cultural significance and continues to captivate the hearts of people, reminding us all of the magic and meaning of Christmas.

Revisiting the Cherished Christmas Carol

‘What Child Is This’ is a cherished Christmas carol that continues to warm hearts during the holiday season. This timeless hymn holds great significance as it reminds listeners of the miraculous birth of Jesus and the hope and joy that Christmas brings. With its enduring appeal, ‘What Child Is This’ has become an integral part of the holiday traditions, whether sung in churches, heard on the radio, or performed by choirs and musicians.

The enduring appeal of ‘What Child Is This’ lies in its beautiful melody and profound lyrics. The soothing and soulful tune of the traditional folk song Greensleeves, paired with the contemplative words, creates a captivating combination that resonates with people of all ages. The carol’s exploration of the shepherds’ wonder and awe at the birth of Christ strikes a chord with the listener, inviting them to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Each holiday season, ‘What Child Is This’ takes center stage, reminding us of the significance of this cherished Christmas carol. Its enduring appeal transcends time and cultural boundaries, touching the hearts of people around the globe. As we revisit this beloved hymn, let us embrace the beauty and meaning it holds, keeping the spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts and minds.

FAQ

What are the lyrics to the Christmas carol ‘What Child Is This’?

The lyrics to ‘What Child Is This’ reflect the nativity story and the awe and wonder of the shepherds who visited baby Jesus. The carol contemplates the identity of the child and proclaims Him as Christ the King. The lyrics also recognize the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth, with references to Him lying in a lowly manger alongside ox and ass. The final verse urges listeners to bring gifts and enthrone the King of kings in their hearts.

Who wrote the Christmas carol ‘What Child Is This’?

The Christmas carol ‘What Child Is This’ was written by William Chatterton Dix in 1865 while he was bedridden from a severe illness. Dix is also known for writing other well-known hymns such as ‘As with Gladness Men of Old’ and ‘Alleluia! Sing to Jesus’.

What is the meaning of the lyrics to ‘What Child Is This’?

The lyrics of ‘What Child Is This’ contemplate the identity of the child born in the nativity story and acknowledge Him as Christ the King. The carol conveys a sense of awe and wonder, reflecting the shepherds’ emotions upon encountering baby Jesus. The lyrics also acknowledge the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth and urge listeners to recognize Him as the King of kings.

What is the historical background of the Christmas carol ‘What Child Is This’?

Although the lyrics of ‘What Child Is This’ were written in 1865, the carol was not published until 1871 in the Christmas Carols New and Old collection. The exact pairing of the lyrics with the tune Greensleeves is uncertain, but it is believed that John Stainer, who harmonized the musical setting of the carol, may have made the connection. Over time, the carol has become more popular in the United States than in its country of origin, Great Britain.

What is the music of ‘What Child Is This’?

The music for ‘What Child Is This’ is set to the traditional folk tune Greensleeves, which dates back to the 16th century. Greensleeves is a well-known English melody that beautifully complements the contemplative and reverent nature of the lyrics. It is often described as soulful, haunting, and beautiful.

How popular is the Christmas carol ‘What Child Is This’?

‘What Child Is This’ is a beloved Christmas carol that holds cultural significance. It has gained significant popularity in the United States, where it is often performed and sung in churches, schools, and community events. The timeless lyrics and beautiful melody have contributed to the carol’s enduring popularity and its status as a classic Christmas song.

What other famous carol lyrics did William Chatterton Dix write?

William Chatterton Dix, the author of ‘What Child Is This’, also wrote other well-known carols and hymns. Some of his other notable works include ‘As with Gladness Men of Old’ and ‘Alleluia! Sing to Jesus’. These hymns, like ‘What Child Is This’, have become cherished parts of the Christmas music repertoire and continue to be sung and enjoyed by people around the world.

Are there different musical arrangements of ‘What Child Is This’?

Yes, over the years, ‘What Child Is This’ has been arranged and performed in various musical styles and by different artists. The carol lends itself well to both traditional and contemporary interpretations, allowing musicians to showcase their creativity and bring a fresh perspective to the lyrics and melody. From orchestral arrangements to acoustic renditions, there is a wide range of musical interpretations available, ensuring that ‘What Child Is This’ continues to resonate with diverse audiences.

What is the cultural significance of ‘What Child Is This’?

‘What Child Is This’ holds cultural significance as a timeless Christmas carol. Its beautiful lyrics and melody evoke the spirit of the holiday season and remind listeners of the true meaning of Christmas. The carol has become deeply ingrained in popular culture, being performed and enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. It has also been featured in various Christmas-themed movies, television shows, and commercials, further cementing its place as a beloved and iconic Christmas song.

Why is ‘What Child Is This’ a cherished Christmas carol?

‘What Child Is This’ is a cherished Christmas carol that continues to warm hearts during the holiday season. Its timeless lyrics and beautiful melody remind listeners of the miraculous birth of Jesus and the hope and joy that Christmas brings. Whether sung in churches, heard on the radio, or performed by choirs and musicians, ‘What Child Is This’ has a lasting and enduring appeal that keeps it alive in the hearts and minds of people each holiday season.