Christmas broadcast for Silent Night's lost verses

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The Independent Online
Three forgotten verses of "Silent Night", Britain's favourite carol, have been rediscovered in an Austrian manuscript more than 200 years after they were penned by a penurious priest, writes Vanessa Thorpe.

The carol was first performed on Christmas Eve, 1818, inside St Nikolaus Church in Oberndorf. At the time, Joseph Mohr, thepriest who wrote the verses, was living across the river.

Although the carol has long epitomised serenity, the verses - especially the forgotten ones -bear testament to Mohr's life and his experiences of war.

A BBC2 documentary to be screened on Christmas Eve explains how a retired teacher, Elisabeth Kruckenhauser, came across the verses in a library vault.

A hard-drinking, gambling man from Salzburg, Joseph Mohr had managed to survive both war and ill-health when he wrote six verses in celebration of the birth of Christ. Although the meaning is a little opaque, Mohr's experience of battle seemed to inspire him to pen an appeal for God-given peace.

The BBC decided to recreate the first performance of "Silent Night", which a Gallup poll found to be easily the best-loved carol in Britain, as accurately as it could. The affectionate history of the carol ends with a performance of the full text sung to a guitar accompaniment in front of the original altarpiece and its wax-figure crib scene.

Here is a literal translation of the forgotten verses:

Silent night! Holy night!/ That brought the world's salvation/ from the heavens' golden heights let us show mercy in abundance:/ Jesus in human form! Jesus in human form!

Silent night! Holy night!/ Today the full might/ of fatherly love poured out/ and as a brother reverentially embraced/ Jesus the people's world! Jesus the people's world!

Silent night! Holy night!/ Planned for us long ago/ when the Lord, freed from fury,/ promised the fathers in the mists of time/ to care for all of the world! To care for all of the world!