The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Table of Contents

Sorted Alphabetically Within Part

William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833)


Note: Some of the earliest carols were composed in Middle English, which in some cases bears little resemblance to modern English (or even "American"). In these cases, I have not attempted to translate the original into modern English (as I have no facility with Middle English).  As much as possible, I have retyped the originals as I found them. 

Because Middle English contains letters not found in modern English, I've used a special font, "Junicode" created by Professor Peter S. Baker, Professor of English, University of Virginia on some pages.  I will note on the individual carol's page which ones need this font. You can obtain a copy of this font from his website Old English at the University of Virginia (select "Windows TrueType," or right click here, and then select "Save File As" to save a copy of the zipped file to your computer).  This font must be downloaded and installed before these pages will display accurately.

Some special characters — especially for the letter "s" — are not contained in Dr. Baker's font.   When a change to the modern letter has been made, I will italicize the letter. See the sample below for some characters which occur in Sandys.

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Many of these carols contain archaic spellings of modern words.  I have not undertaken to make any corrections to modern usage, so that you can see the original as Sandys reproduced it.

Some Old and Middle English resources:

William Sandys was born in 1792 and was an English solicitor (lawyer) by profession.   His Christmas  publications include:

  • 1833, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (which contained 80 carols)

  • 1852, Christmas-tide, Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music

He had a wide variety of interests and published several other volumes on various topics. He died in London on February 18, 1874. For additional biographical notes, please see Table of Contents - Sandys.

Ancient Carols and Christmas Songs,
From the Early Part of the Fifteenth to
The End of the Seventeenth Century.

A jolly wassel bowl

All you that to feasting and mirth are inclined

Blyssid be yt mayde mary

Give way, give way, ye gates, and win

God sent his Aungell Gabriell

Herode yt was both wylde & wode

I am here, syre cristsmasse

I come from heuin to tell

I sing the birth was born to.night

Immortal Babe, who this dear day

In Betheleem, that noble place

In numbers, and but these few

Jhesu of a mayde yu woldest be born

Lordes and ladyes all by dene

Marke this songe, for it is trewe

Mary modr, meke & mylde

Meruele nozt, iosep, on Mary mylde

My sweet little babie

Nay iuy, nay, hyt shall not be, I wys (A Song of the Ivy and the Holly)

Now let vs sing with joy and mirth

Now, now the mirth comes (Alternate Title: Twelfe Night, Or King and Queene)

One God, one Baptisme, and one Fayth (A New Dyall)

Proface, welcom, well come

Seyt steuene was a clerk

So, now is come our joyful'st feast

Sweet Musicke, sweeter farre

Tell us, thou cleere and heavenly tongue

The Boare is dead

The bores heed in hand bring I

The borys hede that we bryng here

The ferste joye as i zu telle (Joyis Fyve)

This endnes nyght I sawe a syght (A, My Dere Son)

When cryst was born of mary free

Wolcu zol thu mery ma

A Selection From Carols
Still Used In The West Of England


Note from Mr. Sandys:


"The carols contained in the Second Part, with the exception of the last four, are selected from upwards of one hundred obtained in different parts of the West of Cornwall, many of which, including those now published, are still in use. Some few of them are printed occasionally in the country, and also in London, Birmingham, and other places, as broadside carols; others have appeared, with some variation, in Mr. Gilbert's collection, having been derived from similar sources; but a large portion, including some of the most curious, have, I believe, never been printed before."


Editor's Note:

The reference to "Mr. Gilbert's collection" are to two volumes of Christmas carols published by Davies Gilbert:

I do not own either of these collections; the descriptions are taken from other sources. For more information, see Erik Routley, The English Carol, pp. 81+, and William E. Studwell and Dorothy E. Jones, Publishing Glad Tidings, pp. 7+.


A Child this day is born

A Virgin most pure, as the Prophets do tell

All you that are to mirth inclined

As I pass’d by a river side (A Carnal and the Crane)

As it fell out one May morning (The Holy Well)

Augustus Caesar having brought

Come behold the Virgin Mother

Come rejoice, all good Christians

God bless the master of this house (The Saviour Of All People)

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

Hail! ever hail! auspicious morn

Hark the herald Angels sing

Hark, Hark I what news the Angels bring

I saw three ships come sailing in

In those twelve days

Joseph being an aged man

Joseph was an old Man

One God there is, of wisdom, glory, might

Remember, O thou Man

Saint John, Saint John, was Christ’s disciple

Saint Stephen was an holy man

The Angel Gabriel from God

The first good joy our Mary had

The first Nowell, the Angel did say

The Lord at first had Adam made

The Moon shines bright and the Stars give light

There is a Child born of our blessed Virgin (Gloria Tibi Domine)

This new Christmas Carrol

To-morrow shall be my dancing day

Upon Christmas Day in the morning

When Adam first in Paradise

When Augustus Caesar throughout

When bloody Herod reigned king

When Caesar Augustus had raised a taxation

When God at first created man

When Herod in Jerusalem

When Jesus Christ was twelve years old

When old Father Jacob was ready to die

When righteous Joseph wedded was

Whilst Shepherds watch'd their flocks by night

Specimens of French Provincial Carols

Célébrons la Naissance

Guillô, pran ton tamborin

L'An mil sies cens quaranto cinc

Lon de la gran carriere

Quand Dieu naquit à Noël

Venés veire din l’estable


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Tunes From Sandys

Concerning the 18 tunes which were appended, Sandys wrote:

"The Tunes are of a pleasing and plaintive nature, and most of them appear to be of considerable antiquity. In No. 3 will be found a specimen of the old minor key, with a flat seventh at the close; the scale is founded on one of the old Grecian modes, having the flat seventh ascending and descending, and was varied by the introduction of the more modern minor key, as far back, probably, as the 15th century. It appears harsh to modern ears, which expect the g sharp.

"No. 6 is of simple construction, almost a chant. No. 11, according to tradition, has been known for three hundred years back. No. 9 is very similar to one of the old Shakspearian tunes, "There lived a man in BabyIon." Nos. 14 and 15 are inserted to show the manner in which the carol-singers sing in parts. Nos. 16 and 17 are examples of French carol tunes, both in a minor key, and apparently old. No. 18 is a tune, which I have been informed by the lady who furnished me with it, has been handed down as the appropriate one for the old ballad of "Lord Thomas and fair Elinor." I have therefore introduced it, though not a regular carol tune, from its probable antiquity.

"Although the tunes are appropriated in this selection to particular carols, they are not confined to them, but some favourite ones are sung to various sets of words. As it would have encumbered the work to have printed a greater number, I may, from the difference of taste in these matters, have omitted some, more prized by the singers, but I have endeavoured to bring forward the best."

Click here for the Tunes From Sandys

See, also William Sandys, Christmas-tide Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music (London: John Russell Smith, 1852)

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