Staying in the seventeenth century, where we found ourselves for yesterday’s advent calendar fact, we’re off to hear another Christmas carol today. Not a bad way to spend Christmas Eve Eve, after all! The Christmas carol we’re concerned with on this penultimate day of our Advent Calendar posts is one of the classics, which has an interesting connection with poetry.
‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks’ is a popular carol and has been for over three hundred years. But what is not widely known is that the words to the carol were written by an early Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom.
Nahum Tate (1652-1715 – he was born Nahum Teate) held the post of Poet Laureate between 1692 and his death. Tate was Irish and moved to London in his twenties, quickly becoming known as a dramatist and poet. Tate was the man who rewrote Shakespeare’s King Lear to give it a happy ending: he omitted the character of the Fool altogether and ended the play with the marriage of Edgar and Cordelia. He also collaborated with John Dryden (who was an earlier holder of the Laureateship, until his Catholicism put an end to his tenure) on the second half of Dryden’s long poem Absalom and Achitophel. Tate also wrote the words to Henry Purcell’s famous opera Dido and Aeneas. Not a bad crop of achievements there, but Tate remains one of the least-known (and least-read) Poets Laureate.
And tomorrow, we come to the end of our literary advent calendar. Each fact until now has shared something with the previous day’s fact, but tomorrow’s – being the conclusion of the calendar – is a special standalone fact that relates specifically to Christmas Eve. We hope you’ll join us for that tomorrow. Ho ho ho!
Image: ‘Song of the Angels at the Nativity of our Blessed Saviour’, better known as ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks’, from A New version of the Psalms of David : fitted to the tunes used in churches, Wikimedia Commons.
Thank you so much for this wonderful series of posts – they’ve helped make my Christmas all the more fascinating and enjoyable. Best wishes of the season to you and may 2015 be a blessing to you and all your literary pursuits. :)
Thank you, Ken! And thanks for all your comments and tweets – it means a great deal to know people find these posts as enjoyable to read as they were for me to write. Have a great Christmas and New Year :)
Lovely, thank you!
Our best wishes for a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! :-)
Dina, Klausbernd, Siri & Selma
Thanks for all these great holiday posts. Hard to believe the end is already drawing near.
I know – where has December gone? And thanks – great to know you’ve enjoyed them!