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Christmas Songs


'I Saw Three Ships'
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Historians love to debate the symbolism found within the words of the Christmas hymn, "I Saw Three Ships." Do the seafaring vessels represent Columbus's voyage? Or are they indirect references to: the Holy Trinity, the three Wise Men, or I Corinthians 13:13 (King James Version, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity")?

Whatever the intent of the song's lyricist, "I Saw Three Ships" has been a popular hymn since its publication in 1666. Notably, Cecil Sharp, an English collector of folk songs, discovered several versions of this melody throughout the British Isles.

"I Saw Three Ships" Lyrics

1. I saw three ships come sailing in;

On Christmas Day, On Christmas Day,

I saw three ships come sailing in;

On Christmas Day in the morning.

2. And what was in those ships all three,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?

And what was in those ships all three,

On Christmas Day in the morning?

3. The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.

The Virgin Mary and Christ were there,

On Christmas Day in the morning.

4. Pray, whither sailed those ships all three,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day?

Pray, whither sailed those ships all three,

On Christmas Day in the morning?

5. O they sailed into Bethlehem,

On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day.

O they sailed into Bethlehem,

On Christmas Day in the morning.

Christmas sheet music: "I Saw Three Ships"

Do you know which holiday song Charles Dickens employed in his classic story, "A Christmas Carol?" Go to the next page to learn the history of "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen."


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