Once in Royal David’s City

Words: • Cecil F. Alexander (1848)
Music:IRBY • Henry J. Gauntlett (1849), arr. Arthur H. Mann (1919), arr. A. Cooper (2020)



Once in royal David’s city
  Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
  In a manger for His bed.
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.


He came down to earth from heaven
  Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
  And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor and mean and lowly
Lived on earth our Savior Holy.


And through all His wondrous childhood
  He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lovely maiden
  In whose gentle arms He lay.
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.


For He is our childhood’s pattern,
  Day by day like us He grew.
He was little, weak, and helpless,
  Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.


And our eyes at last shall see Him,
  Through His own redeeming love.
For that Child so dear and gentle
  Is our Lord in heav’n above.
And He leads His children on
To the place where He has gone.


Not in that poor lowly stable,
  With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
  Set at God’s right Hand on high;
When like stars His children crowned,
All in white, shall wait around.

Compared to Hymnals

Many hymnals lack this hymn. Two notable hymnals which include it are Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs and the uniquely British Favourite Hymns of the Church. Compared to those two hymnals:

  • We include all six original stanzas. Six stanzas is a lot to sing, and you may prefer fewer. Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs includes three stanzas: vs 1, a combination of vss 4 and 3, and vs 5. Favourite Hymns of the Church includes the first five original stanzas.
  • Our music is closer to the well-known arrangement from Arthur H. Mann. Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs and Favourite Hymns of the Church each have their own unique music arrangement for this hymn, but both depart in places from the well-known (and often-recorded) arrangement of Arthur H. Mann. We have made only minimal changes to Mann’s version, simplifying some of the parts for congregational use but retaining his original chords to keep the “sound” of this hymn for those who are already familiar with it.
  No. Words Music
Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs 645 Lacks vs 2;
Combines the first two couplets of vs 4
and the final couplet of vs 3 into a single vs;
Lacks vs 6
Different arrangement;
Key of G instead of F
Songs for Worship and Praise n/a
Favourite Hymns of the Church 73 Lacks vs 6 Different arrangement
Songs of Faith and Praise n/a
Praise for the Lord n/a
Hymns for Worship (Revised) n/a
Songs of the Church n/a
Sacred Selections n/a
Christian Hymns No. 2 n/a
Great Songs of the Church No. 2 n/a


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Through [Jesus] let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.
— Hebrews 13:15