"What Child Is This" was originally a poem by William Chatterton Dix entitled "The Manger Throne". The words were paired with "Greensleeves". a very old English tune from the 15th century.
1. 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?
This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud,
the babe, the son of Mary.
2. Why lies he in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.
3. So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
come, peasant, king, to own him;
the King of kings salvation brings,
let loving hearts enthrone him.
Born in Bristol, England, William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898) was the manager of a marine insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland but I wonder if he really considered that his life's work was in writing his beautiful words of poetry for worship. He wrote more than forty hymns, among them "Alleluia, Sing To Jesus". He died in 1898 and is buried at his parish church in Cheddar in Somerset, England. If only I could write hymns like this hymn writer! They say simply and to the point exactly what the hymn writer is trying to convey but in such wondrous words! "The babe, the son of Mary"..." "Not as orphans are we left in sorrow"... "Shall our hearts forget his promise". "Intercessor, friend of sinners, plead for me".
I found this hymn on YouTube. Turn it up and let the words and music wash over you and fill your spirit! You can sing along if you like.
Alleluia! sing to Jesus!
His the scepter, his the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph,
his the victory alone.
Hark! the songs of peaceful Zion
thunder like a mighty flood.
Jesus out of every nation
hath redeemed us by his blood.
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'?
Alleluia! bread of heaven,
here on earth our food and stay!
Alleluia! here the sinful
flee to thee from day to day.
Intercessor, Friend of sinners,
earth's Redeemer, plead for me.
Where the songs of all the sinless
sweep across the crystal sea.
Alleluia! King eternal,
thee the Lord of lords we own;
Alleluia! born of Mary,
earth thy footstool,
heaven thy throne.
Thou within the veil hast entered,
robed in flesh, our great High Priest.
Thou on earth both Priest and Victim
in the Eucharistic Feast.