Benjamin Cuzens
(fl.1785 - 1790)

Cuzens : At this unwonted hour : illustration

At this unwonted hour
(S.A.T.B.Org./strings/wind)
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Christmas Ode, less akin to oratorio than to children's nativity play, from "Divine Harmony. Six Anthems and a Christmas Ode each in score, calculated for country choirs and interspersed with symphonies but may be occasionally performed without them. Composed by Benjamin Cuzens Portsmouth Common". London, 1787. The text is an unattributed piece of poetastery frequently anthologised in collections of improving works and conversation pieces from c.1750 and for the next eighty years.

The current edition comprises a choral score with organ reduction of both vocal and instrumental parts, and three separate instrumental parts. The ode may therefore be performed with instrumental accompaniment as preferred.
Lyrics: Anon

[First Shepherd]
At this unwonted hour, behold
What strikes my wand'ring soul with fear!
How all yon east is streak'd with gold,
As if the op'ning morn was near.

[Second Shepherd]
I mark it, now the streams unite,
One pillar now of moving light;
My soul too shakes, it sinks, it dies.
See! Through the air the vision flies.

[Third Shepherd]
Heav'n shield us, lo, 'tis just at hand,
Some strange event impends;
O'erhead direct it seems to stand,
And now the blaze descends.

[Gabriel]
Ye shepherds, all your fears design,
I come not arm'd with wrath divine,
But fraught with heav'nly love.
The news, the welcome news I bring,
Sounds loud from ev'ry sacred thing,
Through all yon realms above.

I come, and 'tis a blest employ,
I come, the messenger of joy,
Go publish what I sing.
Earth is no more a scene forlorn,
This night the promis'd Christ is born,
Your saviour and your king.

At Bethlem, in a manger, lies
The swaddl'd babe; let raptures rise
Round this terrestrial ball.
The raptures catch from heart to heart,
Till all shall feel, till all impart,
For Christ was born for all.

[Chorus of Angels and Shepherds]
Glory to God in strains till now unknown,
From ev'ry glowing seraph round his throne.
Peace to this globe, all worlds admire the plan
Of heav'n's free benevolence to man.