The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Carrol for a Wassel-Bowl

For Christmas

"To Be sung upon Twelfth-Day at Night, to the tune of "Gallants, come away"


Joseph Ritson, Ancient Songs and Ballads From The Reign of King Henry the Second To The Revolution. 1790. W. Carew Hazlitt, ed., Third Edition. London: Reeves And Turner, 1877, pp.304-6.

New Christmas Carrols: Being fit also to be sung at Easter Whitsontide, and other festival days in the year, "in the curious study of that ever-to-be-respected antiquary Mr. Anthony a Wood"

In the Ashmolean Museum

1. A jolly wassel-bowl,
A wassel of good ale,
Well fare the butler's soul,
That setteth this to sale;
Our Jolly wassel

2. Good dame, here at your door
Our wasel we begin,
We are all maidens poor,
We pray now let us in,
With our wassel.

3. Our wassel we do fill
With apples and with spice,
Then grant us your good will
To taste here once or twice
Of our good wassel

4. If any maidens be
Here dwelling in this house,
They kindly will agree
To take a full carouse
Of our wassel.

5. But here they let us stand
All freezing in the cold:
Good mastere give command
To enter and be bold,
With our wassel.

6. Much joy into this hall
With us is entered in;
Our master, first of all,
We hope will now begin
Of our wassel.

7. And after his good wife
Our spiced bowl will try;
The Lord prolong your life,
Good fortune we spy
For our wassel.

8. Some bounty from your hands,
Our wassel to maintain:
We'l buy no house nor lands
With that which we do gain
With our wassel.

9. This is our merry night
Of choosing king and queen,
Then be it your delight
That something may be seen
In our wassel.

10. It is a noble part
To bear a liberal mind:
God bless our master's heart,
For here we comfort find,
With our wassel.

11. And now we must be gone
To seek out more good cheer,
Where bounty will be shown,
As we have found it here,
With our wassel.

12. Much joy betide them all,
Our prayers shall be still,
We hope and ever shall,
For this your great good will
To our wassel.

Also found in Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861), under the title of "A Carol for a Wassail Bowl," and with these notes:

The following Carol was copied by Ritson from a scarce black-letter volume, in the Ashmolean Museum. The Boar's head and the Wassail bowl were the two most important accessories to Christmas in the olden time, and many are the allusions to the latter in our early English poets. The phrase "Wassail" occurs in the oldest Carol that has been handed down to us. New Year's eve and Twelfth-night were the occasions on which the Wassail bowl was chiefly in requisition. In the royal household of Henry VII., on Twelfth-night, the steward was enjoined, when he entered with the spiced and smoking beverage, to cry "Wassail " three times, to which the royal chaplain had to answer with a Carol or song.

Note that Hugh Keyte, an editor of The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) believes that "Joshua Sylvester" is a pseudonym for a collaboration between William Sandys (1792-1874) and William Henry Husk (1814-1887). See Appendix 4.

Also found in Sandys and Husk, A Jolly Wassel-Bowl

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