What Child Is This?


  • This carol's melody is from the 16th century song "Greensleeves." In 1865 the English poet and lay theologian William Chatterton Dix wrote a Christmas poem entitled The Manger Throne and a few years later Sir John Stainer merged 3 verses of Dix's lyrics and "Greensleeves" to produce "What Child Is This."
  • The carol first appeared as a hymn text in Christmas Carols New and Old (1871) edited by Stainer and the Reverend H.R. Bramley. Apart From "What Child Is This," their compilation also included Stainer's arrangements of what were to become the standard versions of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "The First Nowell," "I Saw Three Ships" and "Good King Wenceslas" among others.
  • Dix was born in Bristol, England and attended the Grammar school there. His surgeon father wrote a biography of the poet Thomas Chatterton, and gave his son his middle name in his honor. William spent most of his life as manager of a Maritime insurance company in Glasgow, Scotland, but his heart was in the poetry of worship. He wrote over 40 hymns, including many songs for Christmas and Easter. Another of his carols that has endured is "As With Gladness, Men Of Old", set to a melody by Konrad Kocher. The hymns he wrote include "Alleluia! Sing to Jesus" and "To You Oh Lord Our Hearts We Raise."

Comments: 1

  • Sonya from Kimball, Mii hope josh realizes what a gift he has been given with his voice. I'll never understand how someone can sing and make you cry just by thier voice.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Dwight Twilley

Dwight TwilleySongwriter Interviews

Since his debut single "I'm On Fire" in 1975, Dwight has been providing Spinal-Tap moments and misadventure.

Jackie DeShannon - "Put a Little Love in Your Heart"

Jackie DeShannon - "Put a Little Love in Your Heart"They're Playing My Song

It wasn't her biggest hit as a songwriter (that would be "Bette Davis Eyes"), but "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" had a family connection for Jackie.

Divided Souls: Musical Alter Egos

Divided Souls: Musical Alter EgosSong Writing

Long before Eminem, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj created alternate personas, David Bowie, Bono, Joni Mitchell and even Hank Williams took on characters.

Carol Kaye

Carol KayeSongwriter Interviews

A top session musician, Carol played on hundreds of hits by The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Frank Sinatra and many others.

Subversive Songs Used To Sell

Subversive Songs Used To SellSong Writing

Songs about drugs, revolution and greed that have been used in commercials for sneakers, jeans, fast food, cruises and cars.

Modern A Cappella with Peder Karlsson of The Real Group

Modern A Cappella with Peder Karlsson of The Real GroupSong Writing

The leader of the Modern A Cappella movement talks about the genre.