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His Piety And Marvellous Works, from "Saint Nicolas: A Cantata" - Britten (Op. 42)

Composed: 1948
Sung by: The Choir of King's College, Cambridge
St Nicolas - A Ceremony of Carols - Cover Art


For forty years our Nicolas,
Our Prince of men, our shepherd and our gentle guide, Walked by our side.

We turned to him at birth and death,
In time of famine and distress, in all our grief,
To bring relief.

He led us from the valleys to the pleasant hills of grace.
He fought to fold us in from mortal sin.

O! He was prodigal of love!
A spendthrift in devotion to us all, and blessed as he caressed.

We keep his memory alive in legends that our children
and their children's children treasure still.

A captive at the heathen court wept sorely all alone.
"O Nicolas is here, my son, and he will bring you home!"

"Fill, fill my sack with corn," he said: "We die from lack of food!"
And from that single sack he fed a hungry multitude.

Three daughters of a nobleman were doomed to shameful sin,
Till our good Bishop ransomed them by throwing purses in.

The gates were barred, the black flag flew, three men knelt by the block,
But Nicolas burst in like flame, and stayed the axe's shock!

"O help us, good Nicolas! Our ship is full of foam!"
He walked across the waves to them and led them safely home.

He sat among the Bishops who were summoned to Nicaea:
Then rising with the wrath of God, boxed Arius's ear.

He threatened Constantine the Great with bell and book and ban:
Till Constantine confessed his sins like any common man.

Let the legends that we tell, praise him with our prayers as well.

We keep his memory alive in legends that our children
And their children's children treasure still.