As I Lay Upon a Night (Alma Redemptoris Mater)

DESCRIPTION: "As I lay upon a night, My thought was on a (maiden/bird so) bright, That men call Mary (full) of might, Redemptoris mater." Gabriel came to her, saying, "Hail, Mary, full of might!" Jesus is born of her. Jesus ascends to heaven.
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: c. 1430 (British Library -- Sloane MS. 2593)
KEYWORDS: religious childbirth mother children MiddleEnglish
FOUND IN: Britain(England)
REFERENCES (11 citations):
Greene-TheEarlyEnglishCarols, #234, pp. 166-168, "(As I lay vpon a nyth)" (4 texts)
Sidgwick/Chambers-EarlyEnglishLyrics LIII, p. 106, "(no title)" (1 text)
Brown/Robbins-IndexOfMiddleEnglishVerse, #354
DigitalIndexOfMiddleEnglishVerse #608
ADDITIONAL: Roman Dyboski, Songs, Carols, and Other Miscellaneous Poems from the Balliol Ms. 354, Richard Hill's Commonplace Book , Kegan Paul, 1907 (there are now multiple print-on-demand reprints), #21, p. 12, "Now sing we all in fere, Alma Redemptoris mater" (1 text, with an additional text on p. 172)
Carleton Brown, editor, Religious Lyrics of the XVth Century_, Oxford University Press, 1939, #72, pp. 108-109, "My Thought Was on a Maid so Bright (1 text, from the Trinity manuscript)
Rossell Hope Robbins, editor, _Early English Christmas Carols_, Columbia University Press, 1961, #18, pp. 55-55, "Alma Redemptoris Mater" (1 text, 1 tune)
MANUSCRIPT: {MSRichardHill}, The Richard Hill Manuscript, Oxford, Balliol College MS. 354, folio 222
MANUSCRIPT: {MSSloane2593}, London, British Library, MS. Sloane 2593, folio 30
MANUSCRIPT: {MSArchSeldenB26}, Oxford, Bodleian Library Arch. Selden B.26, folio 13
MANUSCRIPT: {MSCamTrinityO.3.58}, Cambridge, Trinity College MS. O.3.58

NOTES [240 words]: The visitation of Gabriel to Mary is told in Luke 1:26-38; the words in this song don't much resemble the Biblical text, but there was no accepted English translation of the text at the time this carol went into circulation.
Mary's presence at the cross is recorded most explicitly in John 19:25-27; the other gospels have somewhat confusing accounts of just who was at the foot of the cross, though Cathoic tradition eventually settled on a list of names.
Jesus's ascent into heaven is told in Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9.
Although no longer found in tradition, this seems to have been popular in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, surviving in no fewer than four manuscripts, two of them very important for the history of traditional song. It is in the Hill MS. (Balliol College, Oxford, 354, a short version) and in Sloane MS. 2593, an important collection which contains many folk songs. The other manuscripts are Cambridge, Trinity College MS. O.3.58 (fifteenth century) and British Library, MS. Arch Selden B.26. The latter two manuscripts are noteworthy for also containing "The Agincourt Carol"; for details, see the notes to that song.
The manuscripts differ significantly; two have six verses, one five, one four, and all the texts different. This implies a high enough probability of oral transmission that I have indexed the song.
For more on manuscript Sloane 2593, see the notes to "Robyn and Gandeleyn" [Child 115]. - RBW
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