The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Boares Head In Hand Bear I

For Christmas

Source: Anthony Wood, 1660, on a sheet privately published by Rev. Philip Bliss (1787-1857), Oxford.

Reproduced by Rev. Thomas Dibdin in Joseph Ames, Typographical antiquities: an historical account of printing in England, with some memoirs of our antient printers, and a register of the books printed by them, from 1471 to 1600, with an appendix concerning printing in Scotland and Ireland. Greatly enlarged by Rev. Thomas Frognall Dibdin. Volume II. (London: For William Miller by W. Bulmer and Co., 1812), pp. 250-252.

See: Notes On The Boar's Head Carols


The Boares head in hand bear I,
Bedeck'd with hays and rose-mary,
And I pray you, masters, be merry
Quotquot estis in convivio;

Caput Apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino.

The Boares head as I vnderstand
Is the brauest dish in all the land,
Being thus bedeck'd with a gay garland;
Let vs servire cantico;

Caput Apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino.

Our Steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss, Which on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio;

Caput Apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino.

It must be remembered that at Queens Coll. Oxon. is every year a bores head provided by the manciple against Christmas-day.

This bore's head, being boyld or roasted, is layd in a great charger covered with a garland of bays or laurell as broad at bottome as the brimmes of the charger. [p. 2]

When the first course is served up in the refectory on Christmas-day in the said College, the manciple brings the said Bores head from the kitchen up to the high table, accompanied with one of the Tabitters (Taberders) who lays his hand on the charger.

The Taberder sings the aforesaid song, and when they come to the Chorus, all the members that are in the refectory joyne togeather and sing it.

This is an antient custome, as old as tis thought as the College it selfe; but no reason to be given for it.



Editor's Note:

This note by Anthony Wood (1632-1695) was found by Dr. Philip Bliss (1787-1857), and published by him on a sheet that was reproduced for a few friends. A copy of this sheet was given to or found by Rev. Thomas Dibdin and reprinted in its entirety between pages 252 and 253 of his Typographical Antiquities (London: For William Miller by W. Bulmer and Co., 1812); see: Dibdin On The Boar's Head Carol. This would be the earliest printing of this version of the carol, and would also indicate that the changes to the carol at the College occurred at a very early date.

An identical version was provided by Rev. Thomas Hyde of Queen's College to Mr. Thomas Baskerville (1630-1720) who published it in his Account of Oxford, 1683-1686; a copy of the Account was published in Collectanea, Part IV. (Oxford: Oxford Historical Society at the Clarendon Press, 1905), pp. 221-222; see: Hyde's Account of the Boar's Head Feast. A second copy of the Baskerville account was found on a Bodleian Library manuscript (previously owned by Dr. Rawlinson), entitled "Memoirs of the Family of Baskerville;" it was also published by Rev. Dibdin in Typographical Antiquities (1812); see above Dibdin link.

This version is substantially similar to the version used at Queen's College in 1811; a copy was provided to Rev. Dibdin by a tutor at the College, Reverend Mr. Dickinson in a letter dated June 7th, 1811. Again, see the above Dibdin link.

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