“Good Christian Men, Rejoice” (“In dulci jubilo”)

A German Christmas Carol (“In dulci jubilo”) in English
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Robert Lucas Pearsall, by Philippa Swinnerton Hughes (née Pearsall, d. 1917). National Portrait Gallery, London. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

One of the most popular English versions of this 14th century German carol was written by the English clergyman John Mason Neale in the 19th century. An earlier English version by Robert Lucas Pearsall (1795-1856) retained the Latin phrases found in the original German version. The Neale version below is a loose poetic translation that drops the Latin found in the original German/Latin version. Pearsall’s English/Latin version, which follows the original German more closely, is also found below.

Over time, various musical arrangements and melodies have been created for “In dulci jubilo” by several composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach. Other musical settings were written in 1607 by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) and in the 1860s by Sir John Stainer (Christmas Carols New and Old).

Learn more in “About this Carol” below.

“Good Christian Men, Rejoice” (“In dulci jubilo” – Neale)

Traditional melody dating from at least 1320

Original German/Latin: Heinrich Seuse, 14th century
English by John Mason Neale (1853)

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say:
Jesus Christ was born today:
Ox and ass before Him bow,
And He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today.

Good Christian men, rejoice,
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss:
Jesus Christ was born for this!
He has opened the heav’nly door,
And man is blessed forevermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave:
Jesus Christ was born to save!
Calls you one, and calls you all,
To gain His everlasting hall:
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

“In dulci jubilo” (English/Latin, Pearsall)

The English version below by Robert Lucas Pearsall (1834) follows the original Catholic German “macaronic” style of mixing Latin with the vernacular language, in this case English. Pearsall was an English composer living in Germany at the time. His arrangement of ‘In dulci jubilo’ (for eight solo and five chorus parts) is still performed frequently at Christmas. Pearsall spent the last years of his life in the Swiss canton of St. Gallen, where he died and is buried.

Original German/Latin: Heinrich Seuse, 14th century
English poetic translation by Robert Pearsall (1834)

In dulci jubilo*
Now sing with hearts aglow!
Our delight and pleasure lies
in praesepio;
Like sunshine is our treasure
matris in gremio;
Alpha es et O!
Alpha es et O!

O Jesu, parvule,
For thee I sing alway;
Comfort my heart’s blindness,
O puer optime,
with all thy loving kindness,
O princeps gloriae;
Trahe me post te!
Trahe me post te!

O Patris caritas!
O Nati lenitas!

Deeply were we stained
per nostra crimina;
But thou for us hast gained
Coelorum gaudia:
Oh, that we were there!
Oh, that we were there!

Ubi sunt gaudia
in any place but there?
There are angels singing
nova cantica
And there the bells are ringing
in Regis curia.
Oh, that we were there!
Oh, that we were there!

*The Latin phrases are in italics. For the English meanings of the Latin, see below.

MORE > German/Latin lyrics (“In dulci jubilo”)
BACK > German Christmas Carol Lyrics

About This Carol

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A FRESH AIRES CHRISTMAS: This Mannheim Steamroller CD album features “In dulci jubilo” and several other German carols.

Buy this CD album from Amazon.com.
Get the MP3 version of this album from Amazon.com.

This traditional carol in Latin and German dates from at least the 14th century. The words may have been written by the German Dominican monk and mystic Heinrich Seuse (1295-1366, also known as Henry Soso in English), but that is not an established fact. It is known that Heinrich mentioned this song in his autobiography (Vita/Leben Seuse), the first ever written in German.

“In dulci jubilo” is a so-called “macaronic” song, one which combines Latin and a vernacular language such as German or English. Today in German there is a Catholic version (with a mixture of Latin and German) and a Protestant version (without any Latin). There are also several different English translations. The most common English version of “In dulci jubilo” is “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” with words by the English clergyman John Mason Neale (1818-1866).

The Mannheim Steamroller CD A Fresh Aire Christmas features “In dulci jubilo” and several other German carols.

Latin Phrases from “In dulci jubilo” Translated into English

in dulci jubilo = in sweet jubilation
in praesepio = in a manger
matris in gremio = in his mother’s lap
Alpha es et O! = Thou art Alpha and Omega! (beginning and end)
O Jesu, parvule = O tiny Jesus
O puer optime = O best of boys
O princeps gloriae = O Prince of Glory
Trahe me post te = Draw me after thee (make me follow you)
O patris caritas = O love of the Father
O nati lenitas = O gentleness of the Son
per nostra crimina = through our crimes
coelorum gaudia/caelorum gaudia = the joys of heaven
Ubi sunt gaudia = Where are joys?
nova cantica = new songs
in Regis curia = in the courts of the King

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