This beautiful song, with music by Tchaikovsky and English words by Geoffrey Dearmer, is popular as both a Christmas and an Easter carol.
The music is at 197 in the Oxford Book of Carols.
In fact it started life as a poem written in 1857 by the American poet Richard Henry Stoddard, Roses and Thorns. Twenty years later the poem was translated into Russian by poet Aleksey Pleshcheyev; and then Tchaikovsky set it to music as part of his Sixteen Songs for Children (Op.54, 1883), using Pleshcheyev’s title Legend.
At this stage it was arranged for 'high voice with piano accompaniment'.
Tchaikovsky also wrote a version scored for mixed a capella choir, and he conducted this arrangement at the opening of Carnegie Hall in New York in 1891, to rapturous applause.
Tchaikovsky’s song was later translated back into English by the poet Geoffrey Dearmer (1893-1996).
In this form it has been performed by a great number of choirs; one of the best recordings is by the Choir of All Saints’ Church, Northampton.