Culture Wikia
File:In dulci jubilo.jpg

The melody as published in the 1582 Finnish music collection Piae Cantiones, which alternates the Latin with Swedish.

In dulci jubilo ("In sweet rejoicing") is a traditional Christmas carol. In its original setting, the carol is a macaronic text of German and Latin dating from the Middle Ages. Subsequent translations into English, such as J.M. Neale's arrangement "Good Christian Men, Rejoice" have increased its popularity, and Robert Pearsall's 1837 macaronic translation is a mainstay of the Christmas Nine Lessons and Carols repertoire. J.S. Bach's chorale prelude based on the tune (BWV 729) is also a traditional postlude for Christmas services.

History and translations[]

The original song text, a macaronic alternation of Medieval German and Latin, is thought to have been written by the German mystic Heinrich Seuse circa 1328.[1] According to folklore, Seuse heard angels sing these words and joined them in a dance of worship.[2] In his biography (or perhaps autobiography), it was written:

Now this same angel came up to the Servant (Suso) brightly, and said that God had sent him down to him, to bring him heavenly joys amid his sufferings; adding that he must cast off all his sorrows from his mind and bear them company, and that he must also dance with them in heavenly fashion. Then they drew the Servant by the hand into the dance, and the youth began a joyous song about the infant Jesus ...[2]

The tune first appears in Codex 1305, a manuscript in Leipzig University Library dating from c.1400, although it has been suggested that the melody may have existed in Europe prior to this date.[2] In print, the tune was included in Geistliche Lieder, a 1533 Lutheran hymnal by Joseph Klug. It also appears in Michael Vehe's Gesangbuch of 1537. In 1545, another verse was added, possibly by Martin Luther. This was included in Valentin Babst's Geistliche Lieder, printed in Leipzig. The melody was also popular elsewhere in Europe, and appears in a Swedish/Latin version in the 1582 Finnish songbook Piae Cantiones, a collection of sacred and secular medieval songs.[2]

The tune appears in Michael Praetorius's Polyhymnia Caduceatrix & Panegyrica collection of 1619.

A polyphonic arrangement for 8 voices was made by Robert Lucas de Pearsall (1795-1856), this being later adapted for 4 voices, the most commonly performed version, by W. J. Westbrook (1831-1894).

There have been a number of translations of the Latin/German poem into English. The most popular that keeps the macaronic structure is R. L. de Pearsall's 1837 translation, which retains the Latin phrases and substitutes English for German.[3] A 2008 survey by BBC Music Magazine found this to be the second most popular choral Christmas carol with British cathedral organists and choirmasters.[4]

Alternatively, a looser translation produced in 1853 by John Mason Neale titles the work "Good Christian Men, Rejoice".[5] This translation is often criticised. In 1921, H. J. Massé wrote that it was an example of "musical wrong doing ... involving the mutilation of the rhythm of that grand tune In dulci jubilo to the English words Good Christian Men Rejoice. It is inconceivable that anyone of any real musical culture should have lent himself to this tinkering with a perfect tune for the sake of fitting it perforce to works of inferior merit."[6] He goes on to cite a more appropriate English translation from 1567 by John Wedderburn as a more "worthy effort".[6]

Still another English translation, made in the 19th century by Arthur T. Russell and featured in several Lutheran hymnals, renders the work as "Now Sing We, Now Rejoice".[7]

First verse textual comparison[]

German/Latin text
by Heinrich Seuse, c.1328[8]
English literal translationTemplate:OR Translation by Wedderburn, c.1567[9] Translation by Pearsall, 1837[10] Good Christian Men Rejoice
by Neale, 1853[11]

In dulci jubilo,
Nun singet und seid froh!
Unsers Herzens Wonne
Leit in praesepio;
Und leuchtet wie die Sonne
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!

In sweet rejoicing,
now sing and be glad!
Our hearts' joy
lies in the manger;
And it shines like the sun
in the mother's lap.
You are the alpha and omega!

Now let us sing with joy and mirth,
In honour of our Lordes birth,
Our heart's consolation
Lies in præsepio,
And shines as the sun,
Matris in gremio.
Alpha is and O, Alpha is and O.

In dulci jubilo,
Let us our homage show!
Our heart's joy reclineth
In praesepio;
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!

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

Influence in music[]

<templatestyles src="Multiple image/styles.css" wrapper=".tmulti"></templatestyles>

Autograph manuscript of "In Dulci Jubilo", BWV 608, from the Orgelbüchlein of J. S. Bach

Template:Listen MIDI

Dieterich Buxtehude set the melody as a chorale-cantata in 1683 for soprano, alto and bass accompanied by two violins and continuo (BuxWV 52) and as a chorale prelude for organ (BuxWV 197) c. 1690.[12][13]

Johann Sebastian Bach set this melody several times: as a chorale in BWV 368; and then for organ in BWV 608 as a double canon in his Orgelbüchlein and in BWV 729 and BWV 751 as a chorale prelude. Commentators agree, however, that BWV 751 is too simple and undeveloped to be the work of Bach.[14] Bach also used the opening phrase of the melody as a fugal subject for two other choral preludes, BWV 703 (Gottes Sohn ist kommen) and BWV 724 (Gott durch deine Güte). BWV 729, written by Bach to accompany congregational singing in Arnstadt, is traditionally performed as the first organ voluntary at the end of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge. This voluntary was first introduced to the service in 1938 by organ scholar Douglas Guest.[15]

Franz Liszt included the carol in his piano suite Weihnachtsbaum in the movement entitled Die Hirten an der Krippe (The Shepherds at the Manger). Norman Dello Joio uses the theme as the basis of his "Variants on a Medieval Tune" for wind ensemble. Ronald Corp composed a setting of In Dulci Jubilo for unaccompanied SATB choir in 1976.

Gustav Holst included both Good Christian Men, Rejoice and God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen in his 1910 Christmas Day choral fantasy (Neale version, 1853), with accompaniment for orchestra or organ.


An instrumental arrangement of the Pearsall version by English musician Mike Oldfield, "In Dulci Jubilo", reached number 4 in the UK Singles Chart in January 1976.[16] This was the second version of "In Dulci Jubilo" that Oldfield recorded; the first was as a B-side for another single, "Don Alfonso". The band Mannheim Steamroller also recorded a version for their 1988 Christmas album A Fresh Aire Christmas, using a dulcimer as the main instrument. Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø recorded a Kjetil Bjerkestrand arrangement of the song with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on the Grammy Award-nominated Christmas album Spirit of the Season. Mediæval Bæbes performed the piece on their 2003 festive album, Mistletoe and Wine.


  1. ""In Dulci Jubilo" string quartet/quintet by trad. arr. Glynn Davies". Sibelius Music. Retrieved 24 July 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "In Dulci Jubilo – Notes on the Carol". Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Retrieved 24 July 2008.
  3. Carols for Choirs 1 – Recorded by the King's College Choir and the Cambridge Singers, Oxford University Press
  4. "Bleak Midwinter named best carol". BBC News. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 24 July 2008.
  5. "Good Christian Men, Rejoice". Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Retrieved 24 July 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 H. J. L. J. Massé, "Old Carols" in Music & Letters, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Jan., 1921), Oxford University Press, p.67.
  8. "In Dulci Jubilo". Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  9. Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400–1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 206–7
  10. "Pearsall In Dulci Jubilo". Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  11. "Good Christian Men Rejoice". Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  12. Snyder, Kerala J. (2007), Dieterich Buxtehude: organist in Lübeck, University of Rochester Press, ISBN 1-58046-253-7
  13. Buxtehude, Deiterich (2006), Chorale preludes BuxWV 177–224, Dover, pp. 54–55, ISBN 0-486-45287-5
  14. Williams, Peter (1980), The Organ Music of J.S. Bach, Volume II: BWV 599–771, etc., Cambridge Studies in Music, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-31700-2
  15. "Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols 2008" (PDF). King's College, University of Cambridge. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  16. "Mike Oldfield search". EveryHit. Retrieved 22 November 2010.