The musical centrepiece of All Saints Fulham Choir’s year is the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols on Sunday 15 December at 6pm. One of the anthems that the Choir will sing is Benjamin Britten’s This Little Babe.
2013 is the 100th anniversary of Britten’s birth, and throughout the year the music world is celebrating under the banner of Britten 100.
The lyrics of This Little Babe are from a poem by Robert Southwell (1561-1595). Southwell was a Jesuit missionary in the time of Elizabeth I. He was executed at Tyburn for treason. His poetry, much of which was written in during his long imprisonment, was published after his death.
This little Babe so few days old is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak unarmèd wise the gates of hell he will surprise.
With tears he fights and wins the field, his naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries, his arrows looks of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns Cold and Need and feeble Flesh his warrior’s steed.
His camp is pitchèd in a stall, his bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, haystacks his stakes; of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus, as sure his foe to wound, the angels’ trump alarum sound.
My soul, with Christ join thou in fight, stick to the tents that he hath pight.
Within his crib is surest ward, this little Babe will be thy guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then flit not from this heavenly Boy