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.
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:
Case Western Reserve University, Preservation Department, Concise Dictionary of Middle English
University of Michigan, Middle English Dictionary (only available to UM students and faculty)
University of Southampton, English Department, Notes on translating Middle English
FREELANG Old English-English Dictionary
Peter Baker, Old English at the University of Virginia
University of Toronto, Centre for Medieval Studies, Dictionary of Old English Project
Red Henry, Old English Page, containing Old English fonts and translations.
This Table of Contents is in the same order as originally printed. Click here for a Table of Contents where each of the Parts has been sorted in alphabetical order.
PART THE FIRST:
Ancient Carols and Christmas Songs,
From the Early Part of the Fifteenth to
The End of the Seventeenth Century.
Nay iuy, nay, hyt shall not be, I wys (A Song of the Ivy and the Holly), 1
Sweet Musicke, sweeter farre, 35 (The Shepherd's Song)
The Boare is dead, 37 (On Bringing Boar's Head, Used Before Christmas Prince, At St. John Baptist's College, Oxford, Christmas, 1607)
I sing the birth was born to-night, 38 (An Hymn On The Nativity Of My Saviour)
Now, now the mirth comes (Alternate Title: Twelfe Night, Or King and Queene), 39
In numbers, and but these few, 41 (An Ode Of The Birth Of Our Saviour)
Tell us, thou cleere and heavenly tongue, 42 (The Star-Song; A Caroll To The King. Sung At Whitehall.)
Give way, give way, ye gates, and win, 44 (The Wassaile)
So, now is come our joyful'st feast, 46 (A Christmas Carrol By George Wither)
A jolly wassel bowl, 50 (A Carrol For A Wassel-Bowl, To be sung upon Tweofth-Day at Night)
All you that to feasting and mirth are inclined, 53 (Old Christmas Returned, or, Hospitality Revived)
The ferste joye as i zu telle (Joyis Fyve), 53
One God, one Baptisme, and one Fayth (A New Dyall), 59
PART THE SECOND: ·
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."
The reference to "Mr. Gilbert's collection" are to two volumes of Christmas carols published by Davies Gilbert:
Some Ancient Christmas Carols (with the tunes to which they were formerly sung in the West of England), 1822 (which contained 8 carols), and
Some Ancient Christmas Carols, Second Edition, 1823 (which contained 12 additional carols)
For more information, see Richard R. Terry, Gilbert and Sandys' Christmas Carols, Erik Routley, The English Carol, pp. 81+, and William E. Studwell and Dorothy E. Jones, Publishing Glad Tidings, pp. 7+.
The Lord at first had Adam made, 67 (For Christmas Eve)
The first Nowell, the Angel did say, 74 (For Christmas Day In The Morning)
Remember, O thou Man, 106
God bless the master of this house, 115 (The Saviour Of All People)
There is a Child born of our blessed Virgin, 122 (Gloria Tibi Domine)
When bloody Herod reigned king, 128 (For Saint John The Baptist)
One God there is, of wisdom, glory, might, 133 (Man's Duty; or, Meditation for the Twelve Hours of the Day)
In those twelve days, 135
When Herod in Jerusalem, 138 (For Innocents' Day)
Hark the herald Angels sing, 143 (For Christmas Day)
As it fell out one May morning, 148 (The Holy Well)
As I pass’d by a river side, 152 (A Carnal and the Crane)
The first good joy our Mary had, 157 (Joys Seven)
PART THE THIRD:
Specimens of French Provincial Carols
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 Babylon." 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
Concerning Number 18, Erik Routley wrote that "Sandys entitles the tune 'Lord Thomas' but gives no words to it" in his notes to the carol, Oh, Who Would Be A Shepherd Boy? (University Carol Book, Brighton: H. Freeman & Co., 1961, Carol #30, page 42). The same lyrics are found in Richard R. Terry, Gilbert and Sandys' Christmas Carols (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1931).
Compare the Christmas plays from William Sandys, Christmas-tide Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music (London: John Russell Smith, 1852):