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Christ-tide Carols






The singing of carols is now confined to Christmas day; but it was not
always so, appropriate carols being sung during the Christ-tide
preceding the day of the Nativity--such, for instance, as the
following examples. The first is taken from Sloane MS. 2593, in the
British Museum, and in this one I have preserved the old spelling,
which is ascribed to the time of Henry VI. It will be seen that
Christ-tide is prolonged till Candlemas day, the Feast of the
Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is kept on the 2nd of
February, on which day all Christ-tide decorations are taken down.

Make we myrth
For Crystes byrth,
And syng we 3ole[26] tyl Candelmes.

The fyrst day of 3ole have we in mynd,
How God was man born of oure kynd:
For he the bondes wold onbynd
Of all oure synnes and wykednes.

The secund day we syng of Stevene,
That stoned and steyyd up even
To God that he saw stond in hevyn,
And crounned was for hys prouesse.

The iij day longeth to sent Johan,
That was Cristys darlyng, derer non,
Whom he betok, whan he shuld gon,
Hys moder der for hyr clennesse,

The iiij day of the chyldren 3ong,
That Herowd to deth had do with wrong,
And Crist thei coud non tell with tong,
But with ther blod bar hym wytnesse.

The v day longeth to sent Thomas,[27]
That as a strong pyller of bras,
Held up the chyrch, and sclayn he was,
For he sted with ry3twesnesse.

The viij day tok Jhesu hys name,
That saved mankynd fro syn and shame,
And circumsysed was for no blame,
But for ensample of meknesse.

The xij day offerd to hym kynges iij,
Gold, myr, and cence, thes gyftes free,
For God, and man, and kyng was he,
Thus worschyppyd thei his worthynes.

On the xl day cam Mary myld,
Unto the temple with hyr chyld,
To shew hyr clen that never was fylyd,
And therwith endyth Chrystmes.


The following is taken from a MS. of the latter half of the fifteenth
century, which Mr. Thomas Wright edited for the Percy Society in 1847.
The spelling is even more archaic than the above, so that it is
modernised, and a gloss given for all those words which may not be
easily understood wherever possible:--

This endris[28] night
I saw a sight,
A star as bright as day;
And ever among
A maiden sung,
Lullay, by by, lullay.

The lovely lady sat and sang, and to her Child said--
My son, my brother, my father dear, why lyest Thou thus in hayd.
My sweet bird,
Thus it is betide
Though Thou be King veray;[29]
But, nevertheless,
I will not cease
To sing, by by, lullay.

The Child then spake in His talking, and to His mother said--
I bekyd[30] am King, in Crib[31] there I be laid;
For Angels bright
Down to Me light,
Thou knowest it is no nay;
And of that sight
Thou mays't be light
To sing, by by, lullay.

Now, sweet Son, since Thou art King, why art Thou laid in stall?
Why not Thou ordained Thy bedding in some great King his hall?
Me thinketh it is right
That King or Knight
Should lie in good array;
And then among
It were no wrong
To sing, by by, lullay.

Mary, mother, I am thy child, though I be laid in stall,
Lords and dukes shall worship Me, and so shall Kings all;
Ye shall well see
That Kings three
Shall come the twelfth day;
For this behest
Give me thy breast
And sing, by by, lullay.

Now tell me, sweet Son, I pray Thee, Thou art my love and dear,
How should I keep Thee to Thy pay,[32] and make Thee glad of cheer;
For all Thy will
I would fulfil
Thou witest[33] full well, in fay,[34]
And for all this
I will Thee kiss
And sing, by by, lullay.

My dear mother, when time it be, thou take Me up aloft,
And set Me upon thy knee, and handle Me full soft;
And in thy arm,
Thou wilt Me warm,
And keep night and day;
If I weep,
And may not sleep,
Thou sing, by by, lullay.

Now, sweet Son, since it is so, that all thing is at Thy will,
I pray Thee grant me a boon, if it be both right and skill.[35]
That child or man,
That will or can
Be merry upon my day;
To bliss them bring,
And I shall sing
Lullay, by by, lullay.



A very popular carol, too, was that of the Legend of the Cherry Tree,
which is very ancient, and is one of the scenes in the fifteenth of
the Coventry Mysteries, which were played in the fifteenth century, on
Corpus Christi Day.

Joseph was an old man,
And an old man was he,
And he married Mary
The Queen of Galilee.

When Joseph was married,
And Mary home had brought,
Mary proved with child,
And Joseph knew it not.

Joseph and Mary walked
Through a garden gay,
Where the cherries they grew
Upon every tree.

O, then bespoke Mary,
With words both meek and mild,
O, gather me cherries, Joseph,
They run so in my mind.

And then replied Joseph,
With his words so unkind,
Let him gather thee cherries,
That got thee with child.

O, then bespoke our Savior,
All in His mother's womb,
Bow down, good cherry tree,
To My mother's hand.

The uppermost sprig
Bowed down to Mary's knee,
Thus you may see, Joseph,
These cherries are for me.

O, eat your cherries, Mary,
O, eat your cherries now,
O, eat your cherries, Mary,
That grow upon the bow.

The parable of Dives and Lazarus was a great favourite at Christ-tide,
as, presumably, it served to stir up men to deeds of charity towards
their poorer brethren; but the following carol, parts of which are
very curious, has nothing like the antiquity of the foregoing
examples:--

As it fell out upon a day,
Rich Dives made a feast,
And he invited all his guests,
And gentry of the best.

Then Lazarus laid him down, and down,
And down at Dives' door,
Some meat, some drink, brother Dives,
Bestow upon the poor.

Thou art none of my brother, Lazarus,
That lies begging at my door,
No meat, nor drink will I give thee,
Nor bestow upon the poor.

Then Lazarus laid him down, and down,
And down at Dives' wall,
Some meat, some drink, brother Dives,
Or with hunger starve I shall.

Thou art none of my brother, Lazarus,
That lies begging at my wall,
No meat, nor drink will I give thee,
But with hunger starve you shall.

Then Lazarus laid him down, and down,
And down at Dives' gate,
Some meat, some drink, brother Dives,
For Jesus Christ, His sake.

Thou art none of my brother, Lazarus,
That lies begging at my gate,
No meat, nor drink I'll give to thee,
For Jesus Christ, His sake.

Then Dives sent out his merry men,
To whip poor Lazarus away,
But they had no power to strike a stroke,
And flung their whips away.

Then Dives sent out his hungry dogs,
To bite him as he lay.
But they had no power to bite at all,
So licked his sores away.

As it fell upon a day,
Poor Lazarus sickened and died,
There came an Angel out of heaven,
His soul there for to guide.

Rise up, rise up, brother Lazarus,
And come along with me,
For there's a place in heaven provided
To site on an Angel's knee.

As it fell upon a day,
Rich Dives sickened and died,
There came a serpent out of hell,
His soul there for to guide.

Rise up, rise up, brother Dives,
And come along with me,
For there's a place in hell provided,
To sit on a serpent's knee.

Then Dives lifting his eyes to heaven,
And seeing poor Lazarus blest,
Give me a drop of water, brother Lazarus,
To quench my flaming thirst.

Oh! had I as many years to abide,
As there are blades of grass,
Then there would be an ending day;
But in hell I must ever last.

Oh! was I now but alive again,
For the space of one half hour,
I would make my will, and then secure
That the devil should have no power.





Next: Christmas Eve--herrick Thereon

Previous: The Bellman Descriptions Of Him



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