The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Tunes

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

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."

Editor's Note: Eighteen tunes were printed in 12 pages.  Below are thumbnails of the tunes; double-click on each thumbnail to see the full page. In some cases, the graphic may be distorted; if so, right-click on the graphic, save to your system, and open with a graphics program.  All graphics are GIFs. The original pages were 5 inches by 8 inches. These graphics were originally scanned at 300 dpi, and have been resized to be 700 pixels wide, each.  As such, they should display and print well from most browsers.

Page 1
Tune 1: A Virgin Most Pure

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Page 2
Tune 2: A Child This Day Is Born
Tune 3: The Lord At First Had Adam Made

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Page 3
Tune 3: The Lord At First Had Adam Made (continued)
Tune 4: When Righteous Joseph

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Page 4
Tune 4: When Righteous Joseph (Continued)
Tune 5: The First Nowell

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Page 5
Tune 6: This New Christmas Carol
Tune 7: God Rest You Merry Gentlemen

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Page 6
Tune 7: God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (continued)
Tune 8: To-morrow Shall Be My Dancing Day

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Page 7
Tune 9: I Saw Three Ships
Tune 10: Joseph Was An Old Man
Tune 11: When Jesus Christ Was Twelve

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Page 8
Tune 11: When Jesus Christ Was Twelve
Tune 12: In Those Twelve Days

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Page 9
Tune 13: Saint Stephen

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Tune 13: Saint Stephen (continued)
Tune 14: Hark, Hark, What News

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Page 11
Tune 15: Hail, Ever Hail

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Page 12
Tune 16, Noel
Tune 17, Noel
Tune 18, Lord Thomas

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Erik Routley, in The University Carol Book (Brighton: H. Freeman & Co., 1961), p. 42,  wrote that "Sandys entitles the tune 'Lord Thomas' but gives no words to it." Routley attaches the tune to the lyrics "Oh, Who Would Be A Shepherd Boy?" by John Gray.

The Grateful Dead Family Discography contains the following notes concerning Lord Thomas and Fair Elinor:

A song which occurs in a number of forms and with a number of titles but which is primarily derived from the ballad Lord Thomas And Fair Elinor. Earliest known recording of the song is as Lord Thomas And Fair Annet which was printed on a broadsheet in England sometime between 1663 and 1685. It was included in Pepys collection in 1700 and in Percy's Reliques of circa 1765.

Child documented ten British texts circa 1890 (Child ballad 73). Since then it has been recorded in many folk song / ballad collections in both the UK and the United States. It is included for example in; Sandy's Christmas Carols and Traditional Songs, Ritson's Scottish Songs, Sharp's English Folk Songs and Randolph's Folksongs Of The Ozarks.

Commonly occurs as The Brown Girl and with titles that are variants on the Lord Thomas and Fair Elinor names. | The Fair Ellender name is less common, though it does occur as Lord Thomas And Fair Ellender.

Here is one version of the poem: Lord Thomas And Fair Ellinor (with links to other versions and a MIDI file).

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