-- It Came Upon The Midnight Clear --
(cover version)

Found on:

Christmas (1993)

It came upon the midnight clear
That glorious song of old
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold
Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heav'n's all gracious king
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled
And still their heavenly music floats
O'er all the weary world
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wings
And ever o'er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
two thousand years of wrong
And man at war with man hears not
The love song which they bring
O hush the noise ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing

And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow
Take heart for comfort, love, and hope
Come swiftly on the wing
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing

For lo the days are hastening
by prophet bards fortold
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall o'er all the earth
Its ancient splendours lay
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing

Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this song, by date:

  • Album notes: "The first of what seems to be becoming a series of Christmas radio concerts had me playing Woodstock, NY, in December of '91. It happened that I was on tour at the time, and it happened that Sam Phillips was the opening act on most of that tour, so it was natural she should be a guest on the radio show. One of her contributions, performed with T-Bone Burnett and David Mansfield, was this arrangement of "Midnight Clear" which she had recorded for a film of that name. Her clever and simple device of shifting the song to a minor key enhanced the poignantly thoughtful words in a way that made me wish I'd thought of it. The next best thing was to sing it that way -- so here it is."

  • 19 December 1993 - "[Do you think we, at this point, in some respects, take Christmas music for granted at this time of year? I mean, we don't really hear what we're listening to?] "Well, I guess it depends on the person, but we're certainly discouraged from hearing what we're listening to because we're inundated with this, you know, the elevator music version of all these songs. And they become, at best, tiresome, and at worst, [laughs] you don't want to hear another note of that stuff if you hear too much of that kind of thing. But it becomes the unconscious accompaniment to your stressed-out Christmas shopping and all the rest of it. One of the things I was hoping would happen in the course of doing the record was to try to bring the life back into these songs, and treat them, as I think I said in the liner notes, treat them as songs that somebody actually put creative effort into writing and not just something that was intended to be wallpaper. [singing] It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old. [speaking] The songs with spiritual significance and these Christmas songs in particular, often have a really profound level of writing and really profound things to say, and we miss that. We even miss it in church, where we shouldn't be missing it, you know. A song like It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, I never appreciated how good a song that is and what it actually talked about until I was learning it for the record, because I'd only ever heard one or two verses and never in a condition where, or in a, I suppose, well, condition's probably the right word [laughs], but in a context where I was able to really appreciate what was going on." - from "Revisiting Traditional Carols with Bruce Cockburn" by Liane Hansen, Weekend Edition, National Public Radio, 19 December 1993. Submitted by Nigel Parry.

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    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.