The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

As I Sat Under A Sycamore Tree

For Christmas Day

Words and  Music: English Traditional

 

See: I Saw Three Ships - Version 1 (With Notes)
As I Sat On A Sunny Bank

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 255.

1. As I sat under a sycamore tree,
    a sycamore tree, a sycamore tree,
I looked me out upon the sea,
    A Christmas day in the morning.

2. I saw three ships a-sailing there,
    a-sailing there, a-sailing there,
The Virgin Mary and Christ they bear,
    A Christmas day in the morning.

3. He did whistle, and she did sing,
    she did sing, she did sing,
And all the bells on earth did ring.
    A Christmas day in the morning.

4. And now we hope to taste your cheer,
    taste your cheer, taste your cheer,
And wish you all a Happy New Year,
    A Christmas day in the morning.

Note from Rickert at page 301:

"This carol, with its variant As I Sat On A Sunny Bank, is still popular in various parts of England. Another version, minus the wassail element, is given on p. 213 [I Saw Three Ships]. The conception of Mary and Christ as sailing in a ship is very old; I have seen it in a stone carving taken from a chimney-piece of about the year 1500."

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), p. 25, who notes that this is a more modern version of the preceding Carol [I Saw Three Ships]. Bullen states that this was "communicated by A. A. to 'Notes and Queries,' 3rd series, iii, 7. It used to be sung in Mid-Kent."

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