The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

As I Went Me Fore To Solasse

Words and Music: Traditional English

Source: Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols Now First Printed, From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (London: The Percy Society, 1847), Song #62, printed verbatim from a manuscript probably owned by a professional musician, and apparently written in the latter half of the fifteenth century, circa 1471-1485.

Evere more, where so ever I be
The dred of deth do troble me.

As I went me fore to solasse,
I hard a mane syght and say, alasse!
Off me now thus stond the casse,
            The dred of, etc.

I have be lorde of towr and towne,
I sett now be my grett renowne;
For deth wyll pluckyd all downe;
            The dred of deth do trobyll me.

When I shal deye I ame not suere,
In what countre or in what howere;
Wheefore I sobbyng sey to my power,
            The dred of deth do trobyll me.

Whan my sowle and my body departyd shall be,
Off my judgment no man cane tell me,
Nor off my place wher that I shal be;
            Therefore the dred of deth do trobyll me.

Jhesu Cryst, whan tha he shuld sofer hys passyon,
To hys fader he seyd, with gret devocyon,
Thys is the causse off my intercessyon,
            The dred of deth do trobyll me.

Al crysten pepul, be ye wysse and ware,
Thys world is butt a chery ffare,
Replett with sorrow and fulfyllyd with care;
            Therefore the dred of deth do trobyll me.

Whether that I be mery or good wyne drynk,
Whan that I do on my lat daye thynk,
It mak my sowle and body schrynke;
            For the dred of deth sore troble me.

Jhesu us graunt hymn so to honowr,
That at owr end he may be owr socowr,
And kepe us fro the fendes powr;
            For than dred of deth shall not troble me.


Note from Wright:

A Chery ffare. This is a new instance of a curious expression, of not unfrequent occurence in the old English poets, for the explanation of which the reader is referred to Mr. Halliwell's Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, art. Cherry-fair. Return

Editor's Note. The reference here is to James Orchard Halliwell (1820-1889) was a biographer of Shakespeare, book collector, antiquarian, and prodigal scholar who completed this important reference work in 1846 at the age of twenty-six. It sold steadily from its first appearance in 1847 and reached a tenth edition by 1881. The original dictionary was sold in two volumes, and was published in London by John Russell Smith. For more information, see Halliwell.

I was unable to locate a copy of Halliwell, but according to E. Cobham Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898), a "cherry fair" has "nothing to do with cherries; it is cheery fairsói.e. gay or recreation fairs. A 'cheering' is a merry-making. Halliwell tells us that 'Cherry (or rather chery) fairs are still held in Worcestershire.' Gower says of this world, 'Alle is but a cherye-fayre,' a phrase frequently met with."

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