Wide, Wide in the Rose's Side — A Christmas Lullaby

Date Completed

November 11, 1987


Choral (more like this)


SATB Choir with Soprano Solo, a cappella





Difficulty Level

Moderately easy

Liturgical Use

Christmas, Lessons and Carols




Kenneth Patchen (1911–1972)


Wide, Wide in the Rose's Side



Date Written

1942 (?)




Copyright © 1942, 1957, New Directions Publishing Corporation. Contained in Collected Poems of Kenneth Patchen published by New Directions Publishing Corporation.


Publication Data

Publisher Name

Paraclete Press

Date Published


Catalog Number

PPM 09405






Dedicated to Patrick Brown, premiered on Saint Rita's first Lessons and Carols service by Cantate Domino (my chamber choir at Saint Rita) on December 18, 1988.

Joel's Comments

I found this text in the Christmas Sourcebook published by Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago. Its simplicity resonated with me, and also the idea of "any man who loves in this world" watching over the baby Jesus in the manger. Even now, I can picture Saint Joseph, or even a nervous shepherd, standing over the crib wondering what danger lies in store for this innocent little one. Some might be tempted to make the text more inclusive and change "any man" to "any one," but I would prefer it to stay as is. There are plenty of Christmas poems with the Virgin and Child!

Kenneth Patchen's life, work and beliefs are too great a subject to be more than briefly mentioned here. He was a pacifist, suffered from excruciating physical pain, was frequently angry and harsh in his words — both poetry and prose, yet wrote some of the most tender poems, including this one. (See also Fall of the Evening Star, which I set many years later in Evening Music.)

Wide, Wide has done very well at Paraclete Press — over 10,500 copies sold by summer 2006 — and therefore is probably my most widely-sung Christmas anthem in the US. It should be performed very simply, stressing the rocking rhythms, the subtle differences between beginning and ending sections, and the suspensions in the alto and tenor lines. In the middle section the choir should sing "loo" on each note. At the time I composed this piece, I did not have a choir to sing it, so it was conceived and held in my mind for some time, as was the case with the Five Motets (see Arise, My Love).


This Worldes Joie

Gloria Dei Cantores, Community of Jesus, Orleans, Massachusetts
Director: Elizabeth C. Patterson
Release Date: 1995
Gloria Dei Cantores, Distributed by Paraclete Press
GDCD 020

User Comments



"A novelty — a setting for church use of a text by a truly major modern American poet, in this case Kenneth Patchen. With no great performing or listening difficulties, this piece would be a pleasure to sing and to hear. Tender, sensitive writing, and the kind of modern composing congregations and audiences immediately appreciate and enjoy. On the short side, it would be a welcome addition (by a living American composer) to the Christmas Eve choral preludes group, or as a Communion motet. Another very welcome addition of an anthem from this publisher [Paraclete Press] accessible to many parish-level choirs, in terms of both resources/difficulty and price. Recommended."

— Ray W. Urwin · The Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians

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