“Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” – “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”

A German Christmas Carol in German and English


Speyer Hymnal, 1599. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

The author of the original German lyrics to “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” is unknown, as is the composer of the song’s melody. The tune still sung today appears in the “Speyer Hymnal” (printed in Cologne in 1599, see photo). The familiar harmonization was written by German composer Michael Praetorius in 1609. The much more recent English version has words written by Theodore Baker (1851-1934) in 1894. Another later English version by Catherine Winkworth translated the first two verses as “A Spotless Rose.”

In the original German title, “ein Ros” equals Old German “ein Reis” (der Spross = shoot, offshoot, sprig), not necessarily a rose (eine Rose).

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming (Theodore Baker, 1894)

Baker’s English poetic translation is largely faithful to the original German. – Learn more about the origins of this German carol below.

Also see the video performance below.

Musik: Köln, 1599
Text: Unbekannt (anonymous)
Music: Cologne, 1599
Words: Theodore Baker
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
Aus einer Wurzel zart.
Wie uns die Alten sungen,
Aus Jesse kam die Art
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht,
Mitten im kalten Winter,
Wohl zu der halben Nacht.
Lo, how a rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming,
As men of old have sung.
It came, a flow’ret bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half-spent was the night.
Das Röslein das ich meine,
Davon Jesaias sagt:
Maria ist’s, die Reine,
Die uns das Blümlein bracht:
Aus Gottes ewigem Rat
Hat sie ein Kindlein g’boren
Bleibend ein reine Magd
Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
The rose I have in mind,
With Mary we behold it.
The Virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright
She bore to them a Savior,
When half-spent was the night.
WEB > “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” (Wikipedia, English)
WEB > “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen” (Wikipedia, Deutsch)MORE > German Christmas Carol Lyrics

About This Carol

This popular German Christmas hymn first appeared in print in 1599. The first two verses were translated into English as “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” by the American musicologist Theodore Baker in 1894. Born in New York City, Baker first studied business but later turned to music as a career, becoming an organist in Concord, Massachusetts. In 1874 he moved to Leipzig, Germany where he studied music and attended the Leipzig Conservatory beginning in 1878, earning a doctorate in 1881. His 1882 dissertation, “Über die Musik der nordamerikanischen Wilden” (“On the music of the North American Indians”), dealt with the music of the Seneca Indians. (Source: hymnary.org)

The first known record of the original German verses was in a German hymnal (Speierisches Gesangbuch) in Cologne in 1599. Additional verses, in German and English, have been added to this hymn over the years. There are differing Catholic and Protestant versions, and even the Nazis got into the act in 1943, altering a line in the first verse to read “Von wundersamer Art” rather than the more religious “von Jesse kam die Art.” But the two original German verses remain the most popular today.

VIDEO > “Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen” – The King’s Singers

More | German Christmas Carol Lyrics in German and English


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