This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

Christmas songs explained - O little Town of Bethlehem

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep
And dreamless sleep
The silent stars
Roll by

These lyrics, which were written in 1868, use 17th century words such as *thy* and *thee* to give it dignity. There is nothing really sacred about the English language used in the King James Bible, it's just what the language sounded like in 1611.

By the 1800s, the word *thee* had already become the word *you*. And the the word *thy* had become the word *the*. By the way, the formal *you*, which was *thou* disappeared altogether. In the 17th century, any person of age or dignity would have been insulted to be referred to as *thee* (you). That formality was already gone by the 1800s and reserved only for God, in which case it is always *Thou*.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

Using an *eth* instead of an *s* was already gone by the mid 1800s, so *shineth* is another 17th century word added to the lyrics to give it more dignity. And it does sound good. The author, Phillips Brooks, was an Episcopal priest, so he was familiar with the 17th century language which is in The King James Bible. Other lyricists weren't so knowledgeable, and some even made the mistake of using the word *ye*, which never existed. Reverend Brooks got it right.

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