That’s a traditional Irish carol Bono is whispering on Michael W. Smith’s new Christmas album. “The Darkest Midnight” is from a collection called the Kilmore Carols, from the village of Kilmore in County Wexford.
The song’s official title is “On Christ’s Nativity,” and while versions of the poem differ, it typically runs many verses long.
Bono speaks just these two verses — the first and last verses of the carol. He changes “every devil” in the second verse to “everyone,” and he repeats the last two lines of the second verse.
The darkest midnight in December, no snow nor hail nor winter storm
Shall hinder for us to remember, the babe on this night was born
With shepherds we are come to see this lovely infant’s glorious charms
Born of a maid as the prophets said, the God of love in Mary’s arms.
Ye blessed angels join our voices, let your guilded wings beat fluttering o’er
While every soul set free rejoices and every devil must adore
We’ll sing and pray that God as always, may our friends and family defend
God grant us grace in all our days, a Merry Christmas and a happy end.
Sinéad O’Connor once recorded it too, with the Glenstal Abbey monks, and selected more verses to sing than Bono did.
For more about The Kilmore Christmas Carols, RTE’s Radio 1 has a podcast documentary here.