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Come, O come in pious lays

Come, O come in pious lays. George Wither* (1588-1667). Wither’s paraphrase is based on Psalms 148 and 150. The opening line reflects Wither’s ambition to establish a body of religious, or ‘pious’, song to rival the popular, or ‘prophane’ songs of his day. Two versions of the hymn were published in his lifetime; the earlier, which begins ‘Come, O come with sacred layes’, appears in A Preparation to the Psalter (1619) and the later in Haleluiah (1641). Both versions consist of five ten-line stanzas and the differences between the two are largely minor changes of phraseology. The later version has been the more widely used, and its full text is included in Roundell Palmer*’s The Book of...

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