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The First Song with Words: A Journey Through the History of Music

What was the First Song with Words: A Look at the Contenders for Music's Earliest Lyrics
By Ethan Young on December 26, 2022

The first song with words is a topic of debate among music historians and scholars. There are several contenders for this title, including the ancient hymns "Hymn to the Nile" and "Hymn to Apollo," as well as the "Seikilos Epitaph" and the "Geisslerlieder." The concept of a "song" with lyrics has evolved over time, and the origins of music and song are ancient and complex.

The search for the first song with lyrics is a fascinating journey through the history of music. While it may be difficult to pinpoint an exact moment when lyrics were first used in music, there are several contenders that have been discussed by music historians and scholars.

Some believe that the first song with lyrics was a hymn or spiritual song, while others argue that it was a secular love ballad or folk song. No matter which song is ultimately deemed the first to use words, it marks a significant milestone in the evolution of music and the way we express ourselves through song.

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The Birth of Lyrics: The Story of the First Song with Words

One contender for the title of "first song with words" is the ancient hymn "Hymn to the Nile," which is believed to have been written around 2500 BC in ancient Egypt. This hymn, which was written in the ancient Egyptian language of hieroglyphics, is thought to be one of the oldest surviving songs with lyrics. The "Hymn to the Nile" was written as a tribute to the Nile River, which was an important source of life and prosperity in ancient Egypt. The hymn praised the Nile for its life-giving waters and its role in nourishing the crops and livestock of the Egyptian people.

Another contender is the ancient Greek hymn "Hymn to Apollo," which is believed to have been written around the 7th century BC. This hymn, which was written in the ancient Greek language, was dedicated to the Greek god Apollo and is thought to be one of the oldest surviving songs with lyrics in the Western world. The "Hymn to Apollo" was written as a tribute to the god of music, prophecy, and the sun, and it praised Apollo for his many virtues and powers.

In addition to these ancient hymns, there are also a number of other songs that have been considered contenders for the title of "first song with words," including the "Seikilos Epitaph," which is a Greek song inscribed on a tombstone and believed to date back to the 1st century AD. The "Seikilos Epitaph" is a short song that consists of only a few lines of lyrics, and it is thought to be one of the oldest surviving examples of a song with lyrics in the Western world.

Another contender is the "Geisslerlieder," which were songs written by medieval flagellants in Germany in the 13th and 14th centuries. The "Geisslerlieder" were songs of repentance and penance, and they were sung by groups of flagellants who would whip themselves as they walked through the streets, singing the songs as a way of seeking forgiveness for their sins. The "Geisslerlieder" are thought to be some of the oldest surviving songs with lyrics in the German language.

It is worth noting that the concept of a "song" with lyrics has evolved over time, and what may have been considered a song in ancient times may not necessarily be considered a song by today's standards. In ancient times, songs were often used for religious or ceremonial purposes, and they were often accompanied by instruments such as harps or lyres. These ancient songs were typically quite simple in structure and may not have had the same level of musical complexity as modern songs.

Additionally, the origins of music and song are ancient and complex, and it is difficult to definitively identify the "first" song with words. Music and song have likely been a part of human culture for thousands of years, and it is likely that the first songs with lyrics were passed down orally from generation to generation. This makes it difficult to trace the origins of specific songs or to determine exactly when they were first written or performed.

In conclusion, while it is difficult to definitively identify the first song with words, there are several contenders for this title, including the ancient hymns "Hymn to the Nile" and "Hymn to Apollo," as well as the "Seikilos Epitaph" and the "Geisslerlieder." The concept of a "song" with lyrics has evolved over time, and the origins of music and song are ancient and complex.

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