I Saw Three Ships, One of My Favorite Carols

“I Saw Three Ships”is one of my favorite old carols. Bethlehem was far from water, but this delightful tune is unmistakably English with it’s reference to the old English highway, the sea. This carol was first seen in print in the 1600s, and in 1833 was published in Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern by William Sandys (pronounced Sands) just four years before the advent of Victoria, Britain’s greatest monarch.christ2

Link to the Lyrics


I first heard this carol on iTunes between my junior and senior year of high school. After hearing this once I became addicted to the carol and included it in several workout remixes. I listen to the song still when it is seasonally appropriate though. Sting sings my favorite version of the song. The album version below was the first introduction I had to the song.

Here is a live version:

Here’s another great version by the dynamite Canadian wonders known as the Barenaked Ladies, they are unnecessarily backed by a children’s choir.

Here is a bagpipe peppered version by The Chieftains:

Sarah & Michael Bowman serenade us with an excellent instrumental here:

The United States Air Force Band’s Singing Sergeants present a rollicking version:

Don your Warby Parkers and yank on your hipster beard to make sure its on tight here’s Sufjan Stevens’s take on this oldie.

Du Hag Owr, a Cornish seafairing choir’s approach to this:

Nat King Cole’s Version, one of the very best.

As you can see I enjoy this song immensly, and it is my hope that you find your favorite version amongst these. Merry Christmas, Dear Readers!



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