Jesus the Dancer, Part 3: “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day”

Here’s another English hymn—a Christmas carol, really—that characterizes Jesus as a dancer.  It’s medieval in origin, perhaps from a mystery play, but it wasn’t published until 1833, in William B. Sandys’s Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern.  Since then, it has been adapted by several composers, the most well-known adaptation being John Gardner’s.

 

The hymn has eleven verses; the first one is a prologue, and the other ten recount significant events from Jesus’ life:  his conception, birth, baptism, desert temptations, ministry, betrayal, trial, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.  The speaker is Jesus, and he’s presumably speaking the day before his conception.  Tomorrow, he says, I will dance into a human womb, and grab the hands and hearts of my true love (his chosen bride, his church), as I invite her to dance with me.  As the lyrics point out, this is the motivation, the objective, behind all Jesus’ acts:  “to call [his] true love to [his] dance.” 

“Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day”

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance.

Chorus:
Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man’s nature
To call my true love to my dance.

Chorus

Medieval dance

A couple dancing, wearing wreaths of flowers in their hair, a volume of trouvère poetry (Douce 308, fol. 210c recto), early 14th century.

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Betwixt an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.

Chorus

Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard I from above,
To call my true love to my dance.

Chorus

Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance;
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love’s dance.

Chorus

The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance.

Chorus

Medieval dance

Round dance, “Roman de la Rose” (KB 120 D 13, fol. 6v), first half of the 14th century.

For thirty pence Judas me sold,
His covetousness for to advance:
Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold!
The same is he shall lead the dance.

Chorus

Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
Where Barabbas had deliverance;
They scourged me and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance.

Chorus

Then on the cross hanged I was,
Where a spear my heart did glance;
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance.

Chorus

Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love’s deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance.

Chorus

Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance.

Chorus

Medieval dance

Dance, “Roman de la Rose” (British Library Yates Thompson 21, fol. 8v), c. 1380.

 I found these images at www.larsdatter.com, a site that aggregates medieval and Renaissance art on topics relating to material culture; there are dozens more illuminations of dancers listed and linked out there, if you’re interested in seeing more.

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2 Responses to Jesus the Dancer, Part 3: “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day”

  1. Pingback: Jesus the Dancer, Part 8: Conclusion | The Jesus Question

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