The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Man, be war, the way ys sleder

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 #3, 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.

Have in mynd, in mynd, in mynd, secuters be often onekynd.

Man, be war, the way ys sleder,
Thy sowle sall go thou wottes not weder,
Body and sowle and al togeder,
    Lytyll joye ys son done.

Have thi sowle in thi mynd,
The secators be right onkynd;
Man, be thi own freynd,
    Lytyll joye ys son done.

In holy bok yt ys wreten,
That sely soule ys son forgeten,
And treu yt ys for to seken;
    Lytyll joye ys son done.

Here ys a song for me:
Syng another for the;
God sent us love and charité!
    Lytyll joye ys son done.


Note from Wright:

The first stanza of this song is given, with very little variation, in the middle of a song in the Sloane MS., fol. 6, v0, as follows:

Man, be war, the weye is sleder,
Thou xal slyde thou wost not qweder,
Body and sowle xul go togeder,
    but if thou wilt amendes make.

Secators. The dishonesty of executors was proverbial in the middle ages, and they appear often to have embezzled money intended for charitable and religious purposes. Hence we meet with not unfrequent, and of course not uninterested, admonitions to the living to dispose of their goods to the church for the benefit of their souls, before death, rather than leave it to the honesty of executors after. See also Man, be war, or thou knyte the fast [Song #29, page 34] of the present volume.

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