Songs and Carols Printed From A Manuscript in the Sloane Collection in the British Museum
London: William Pickering, 1836
Preface to the Songs and Carols
Source: Thomas Wright, ed., Songs and Carols Printed From A Manuscript in the Sloane Collection in the British Museum (London: William Pickering, 1836).
Long ago, the Sloane MS. No. 2593, had been pointed out by Ritson as "a singularly curious relic," and he had printed five songs from it, three of which I have reproduced in the present selection, as my object was to give twenty of what seemed to me the most important pieces it contained. Two or three errors which had found their way into Ritson's edition, and which I trust have been carefully expunged, will also perhaps palliate the crime of having given what has before been printed from the same originals.
In the catalogue by Ayscough, the contents of this volume are justly described as being "some pious, some the contrary," and I have endeavoured to give a fair sample of both; but as the former kind, the pious songs, are infinitely more numerous and on the whole of less importance as well in this manuscript as in the whole mass of Early English Poetry, I have given every specimen which occurred in it of the latter class, and have contented myself with a selection only from the other. In this I had also another object, that of showing how easily things sacred and things profane were reconciled and brought together in the minds of our uncultivated ancestors, who in the same breath could pass from the praises of 'Marie Mylde,’ to the merest ribaldry. The pious songs are in some instance not devoid of merit, and I should have perhaps done well to have made a larger collection; but there is a wide field for the gleaning of such productions, and should these tracts be continued, it is my intention to give a selection of pious songs, not from one, but from many manuscripts, and those of different ages.
Ritson is perhaps not far wrong in conjecturing this MS. to be of the reign of Hen. V. If anything, I think may be rather earlier, but its greatest antiquity must be included within the fifteenth century. The circumstances mentioned in the xivth song may perhaps lead to a more exact estimate of the antiquity of the songs themselves.
These songs are written in a dialect of which the most prominent characteristic are the replacing of –
by x, in the forms of the verb shall, as xal, xalt, xulde;
by ch, at the end of a word, as fleych (flesh), dych (dish), reych (rush), worchepe;
by sch, at the beginning of a word, as schrewde, schote, schette, scharpe, scheld, schene, and sche, though the latter word is most commonly written che.
On the other hand, we have in one instance schylde, for chylde, which, however, is probably only an error of the scribe.
=> w by qu and qw, as quan, quat, qwete, quer, qwyppe.
=> e, by y or i in the terminations of the verbs: see the note on Song x.
There has not as yet been enough done in the classification of our dialects, to enable us to speak on the subject very decisively, except perhaps in one or two instances. Some of the changes above mentioned appear to have been more or less common to several dialects, but certain extracts given by Sharp (in his Essay on the Coventry Mysteries) from the registers at Coventry, bear so perfect a resemblance to the dialect of our Songs, that, if the circumstance of a manuscript having been written at a given place be considered as a proof of its being the dialect of the district, we should feel no difficulty in giving the Sloane MS. to Warwickshire, and I have sometimes thought that the Songs it contains were a collection made for the purpose of being sung in the mysteries themselves. It must be confessed, however, that the Pageant of the Sheremen and Taylers, which Mr. Sharp has printed, as well as the other short pieces which he has joined with it, contain none of the foregoing characteristic.
The initial at the head of the preface is taken from the MS. Harl. No. 2895, of the 11th century, and represents a popular topic of middle age superstition; those who will may consider it as the combat between the Saxon Beowulf and the redoutable fire-drake. The cut at the end of the preface, and that at the end of the notes, are from MS. Reg. 2, B. vii. The latter, which is described in the note on Song i, forms one of a series of drawings illustrative of scripture history, and has under it the couplet,
“Icii fuyit Adam en secle tere,
Eve file pur robe fere.”
While alluding to this note, it will be well to say that the Latin proverb quoted in it is found in the MS. Harl. No. 3362, fol. 7; I had quoted it from memory, but I find that it varies from the original only in the orthography of the first word, quum for cum.
Note that the text is Blackletter, which can be a bit challenging to read.
|Song||Burden or Chorus||Verse|
|1||Now bething the gentil man,||In the vale of Abraham|
|2||Alle maydenis for Gods grace worshepe ye seynt Nicholas||Seynt Nicholas Was Of Gret Posté|
|3||Wommen be bothe good and trewe||Of honds and body and face arn clene|
|4||Synge we alle and sey we thus||Quan I haue in myn purs i=now|
|5||Of a rose, a louely rose||Lestenyt, Lordynges, Bothe Elde and 3ynge|
|6||I haue a gentil cook|
Omnes gentes plaudite:
I saw myny bryddis setyn on a tre
|8||I haue a 3ong suster|
|9||I haue a newe gardyn|
|10||Robynn lyth in grene wode bowndyn||I herde a carpyng of a clerk|
|11||A, a, a, a, nunc gaudet Ecclesia||Lestenytȝ, lordynges, bothe grete and smale|
|12||How hey, it is … les, I dar not seyn, quan che sey3 pes.||3yng men, I warne 3u euerychon|
|13||Synge we nowe alle and sum||A newe song I wil be=gynne
Of kyng Edmund that was so fre
|14||Man be wys, and a=rys,||Thynk man quer of thu art wrout|
|15||Go bet, peny, go bet, go||Peny is an hardy kny3t|
|16||We ben chapmen ly3t of fote,||We bern a=bowtyn non catts skynnys|
|17||Prenegard, prenegard, thus here I myn baselard||Lestenit, lordyngs, I 3u be=seke|
|18||If I synge 3e wyl me lakke|
|19||Mak 3e merie, as 3e may,||
Ther Born He Was
The holy buschop seynt Nycholas
|20||Kyrie, so kyrie, Lankyn syngyt merie, with aleyson||As I went on 3ol day|
Editor's Note: Wright was the editor of
Songs and Carols Printed From A Manuscript in the Sloane Collection in the British Museum (London: William Pickering, 1836). Twenty songs and carols from Sloane MS 2593.
Specimens of Old Christmas Carols Selected from Manuscripts and Printed Books (The Percy Society, 1841).
Thomas Wright and James Orchard Halliwell, eds., Reliquiæ Antiquæ. Two Volumes. (London: John Russell Smith, 1845).
Songs and Carols Now First Printed From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (The Percy Society, 1847) and
Thomas Wright, Festive Songs Principally of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (London: Printed for the Percy Society by Richards, 1848).
Songs and Carols from a Manuscript in the British Museum of the Fifteenth Century (The Warton Club, 1856). The complete Sloane MS 2593, from which 20 poems were reprinted in 1836 by Wright (above).
Songs and Ballads, With Other Short Poems, Chiefly of the Reign of Philip and Mary (London: J. B. Nichols, 1860). Composed of 77 songs and ballads in 212 pages. For the Roxburghe Club, from a 16th Century Manuscript by Richard Sheale in the Library of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford, MS. Ashm. No. 48. The reign of Queen Mary was from 1553-1558; she was succeed by her half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I.
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