348. Away in a Manger

1 Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head;
the stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay;
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

2 The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.
I love you, Lord Jesus: look down from on high
and stay by my side until morning is nigh.

3 Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask you to stay
close by me forever and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in your tender care;
prepare us for heaven to live with you there.

Text Information
First Line: Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
Title: Away in a Manger
Publication Date: 1987
Meter: 11 11 11 11
Topic: Family; Songs for Children: Hymns; Christmas
Source: American, 1885
Language: English
Tune Information
Composer: James R. Murray (1887)
Meter: 11 11 11 11
Key: F Major

Text Information:

Scripture References:
st. 1 = Luke 2:4-7

Stanzas 1 and 2 of this anonymous children's hymn were first published in the Lutheran compilation Little Children's Book for Schools and Families (Philadelphia, 1885). Charles H. Gabriel (PHH 24) published the text with an additional third stanza, also anonymously written in his Vineyard Songs (1892).

Though obviously a children's hymn, "Away in a Manger" is a charming favorite of many people, regardless of age. When people object to the "no crying" phrase in stanza 2, seeing it as a denial of Christ's humanity, they've really missed the childlike nature of this hymn. "Away in a Manger" has a lullaby character in stanzas 1 and 2; stanza 3 is an evening bedtime prayer.

Liturgical Use:
Christmas season, perhaps best on Christmas Eve or on a similar evening worship service.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Tune Information:

With the original two-stanza text, AWAY IN A MANGER was first published in James R. Murray's Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses (1887) and initialed “J. R. M.” Murray (b. Andover, MA, 1841; d. Cincinnati, OH, 1905) compiled the songbook and is now thought to be the tune's composer. However, Murray's hymnbook erroneously described this song as: "Luther's Cradle Hymn. Composed by Martin Luther for his children, and still sung by German mothers to their little ones." As a result, the hymn was wrongly attributed to Luther for many years.

As a young man taught by such famous music teachers as Lowell Mason (PHH 96), George Root (PHH 93), and William Bradbury (PHH 114), Murray also studied at the Musical Institute in North Reading, Massachusetts. From 1868 until the Chicago fire of 1871 destroyed the company, he edited the Song Messenger for the publishing firm of Root and Cady. He then returned to his birth place, Andover, and taught music in the public schools. From 1881 to 1905 he was an editor for the John Church Company of Cincinnati, an important publisher of church school materials and gospel music, including the monthly Musical Visitor. Murray composed many gospel songs and tunes and compiled a number of church school songbooks that contained his music.

AWAY IN A MANGER is a simple tune in ABAC form, probably best performed with light organ accompaniment and/ or with flute, recorder, guitar, or Orff instruments. "Away in a Manger" is a fine young children's choir anthem; it could be sung by children alone, with adults humming the harmony.

The hymn is suitable for two-part, four-part, or unison singing. Try also to sing unaccompanied. Maintain one pulse per bar.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook

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