The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Dossen of Points

Sent by a Gentlewoman To Her Lover For A Newe Yeares Gifte

For the New Year

Words and Music: English Traditional

Source: Thomas Wright, ed., Festive Songs, Principally of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (London: Printed for the Percy Society by Richards, 1846), pp. 79-83.



Notes from Wright:

From Sloane MS. No. 1896; a collection of moral poems, and narrative ballads, "written by Robert Smith and others, sufferers in Queen Mary's days," mixed with some of later date.1 The following appears to be a production of the early part of Elizabeth's reign. I believe it to be the very ballad alluded to by Ben Jonson, in his comedy of Bartholomew Fayre (act ii, sc. 4); where Nightingale, the ballad-singer, rehearsing the titles of his wares, mentions throe of these moralizations:—

"A dozen of divine points, and the godly fartert,
The fairing of good cauncell, of an ell and three quarters."

The fondness which the puritans ultimately imbibed for such far-fetched conceits may be illustrated from a passage of Jasper Mayne's play, The City Match, 1639, from which it appears they literally moralized dress, by working religious sentences upon it:

" Nay, sir, she is a Puritan at her needle too:
She works religious petticoats; for flowers
She'll make church histories: besides
My smock-sleeves have
such holy embroideries,
And are so learned, that I fear in time
All my apparel will be quoted by
Some pure instructor."

Nor is this a solitary notice of the custom, for in Beaumont and Fletcher's Custom of the Country, Rutilio says of another gentleman :—

"Having a mistress, sore you should not be
Without a neat historical shirt."

◊ ◊ ◊

As I on a new yeares day
    Did walcke amidst the streate,
My restlesse eyes for you, my hart,
    Did seke a fayring mete.
I sercht throughout the faire,
    But nothing coulde I fynde:
No, no, of all ther was not one
    That would content my mynde.
But all the boothes were filled
    With fancyes fond attyre,
And trifling toyes were set to sale,
    For them that would requyre.
Then to myselfe quoth I,
    What meanes theise childish knacks;
Is all the faire for children made,
    Or fooles that babies lackes?
Are theise the goodly gifts,
    The new yeare to beginne;
Which friends present unto their friends,
    Their fayth and love to winne?
I se I came in vayne,
    My labour all is lost,
I will departs and kepe my purse,
    From making any cost.
But se my happy chaunce,
    Whitest I did hast away:
Dame Vertue doth display her booth,
    My hasty feete to stay.
I joyfull of the sight,
    Did preace2 onto the place,
To se the tricke3 and trimmed tent,
    For suche u ladyes grace.
And after I had viewed
    Eache thing within her seate,
I found a knotte of peerlesse points4
    Beset with posyes5 neate.
Theise points in number twelve,
    Did shew them selves to be:
The sence wherof by poets skil,
    I will declare to the.
1. With meate before the set,
    Suffise but nature's scant;
2. Be sure thy tongue at table tyme,
    Noe sober talke doe want.
3. Let word, let thought, and dede,
    In honest wise agree:
4. And loke the pore in tyme of nede,
    Thy helping hand may see.
5. When foes invade the realme,
    Then shew thy might and strength;
6. Tell truth in place wher thou dost conic,
    For falshed failes at length;
7. Be fast and firme to freinde,
    As thou wouldest him to be:
8. Be shamefaat there wher shamfull dedes,
    Be offred unto the.
9. Weare not suche costly clothes,
    As are not for thy state:
10. Heare eache man's cause as thoh he wer
    In wealth thine equall mate.
11. In place thy maners shewe,
    In right and comly wyse:
12. From the let peace and quietnesse,
    And wars from others ryse.
With theise twelve vertuous points,
    Se thou do tye thee round,
And lyke and love this simple gifte,
    Till better may be found.
Yet one point thou dost lacke,
    To tye thy hose before:
Love me as I love the, and shall,
    From hence for evermore.

Footnotes From Wright:

1 A poem written by the Earl of Essex, late deceased, 1576, is among them.  Return

2 Press; go hastily.  Return

3 Neat, elegant.  Return

4 Metal tags, at the end of ribbons, used for securing the different parts of dress: "his points being loosened, down fell his hose."—Shakespere's Henry IV, part 1, act ii, sc. 4.  Return

5 Short rhyming sentences, most usually inscribed on rings, but sometimes on brooches, and even on stirrups. In Wits Recreations, 1640, are many of these couplets, such as:—

"May God above
Encrease our love."

And similar innocent jingles. Cokes, in Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fayre, speaking of the "delicate brooches for the bridemen," he will prepare for his wedding, says:—"I'le ha' this poesie put to 'em: for the best grace, meaning mistress Grace—my wedding poesie !"  Return

Editor's Note:

There are four songs on this site with a similar name, but are a very different song:

While doing research on "a dozen of points," I ran across this interesting note:

Congleton Points:

Originally appeared in The Stockport Advertiser, Saturday, November 5, 1881, p. 179

Congleton Points. Congleton points were made of tough white leather, cut into thin strips like laces, and pointed at the ends with tin or silver tags, or aiglets, from which they take their name. In the more expensive kinds these tags were much ornamented, the leather giving place to fine cord or ribbon; and instead of being an accessory to dress, formed a portion of its adornment.

In the Congloton Corporation accounts, 1673, we find "Gave to Earl Rivers' servants, in Congleton points, 5s 4d." They were an indispensable article of dress for both men (to attach the hose to the doublet) and women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries being used instead of bodkins or skewers, and buttons.

In a lottery presented before the late Queen's Majesty (Elizabeth) at the Lord Chancellor's House, 1601, ("Davison's Poetical Rhapsody," 1611), the following occurs in a list of prizes for ladies, and was presented to the queen:—

                       "9. A dozen of points.
You are in every point a lover true,
And therefore fortune gives the points to you."

"The picture of an English Anticke, with a list of his ridiculous habits and apish gestures, 1646, tells us that his breeches were ornamented by many dozen of points at the knees, and above them, on either side, were two great bunches of ribbon of several colours;', and Randle Holmes (note book in the British Museum mentions the " long stirrup hose, two yards wide at the top, with points through several eyelet holes, made fast to the petticoat-breeches," in 1658-9. Southerne, in his play of "The Disappointment," 1684, says:—" My points and girdle made the greatest show. A reference to the costume of the period named will show the remarkable profusion in which they were used. Being so numerous they required, on the part of the wearer, assistance to tie them properly, which was called trussing—" Truss my points, sir!" "Eastward Hoe," 1605; "This point was scarce well truss'd," "Lingua," 1607.

When buttons became cheaper, points were displaced, and the introduction of trousers in place of breeches finally placed them amongst the things that were. Arming-points were used to hold the various parts of armour together, and to the plate beneath.

Alfred Burton.

Source: Advertiser Notes and Queries, Volume 1. (Stockport: "Advertiser" Office., 1882), p. 179.

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