The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Boar's Head In Hand I Bring

For Christmas

Words and Music: English Traditional
Found in The Porkington Manuscript, #10, f 202 r; now referred to as Brogyntyn MS ii.1.

See generally Boar's Head Carols

Source: Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861)

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!
The Boar's head is armèd gay.

The boar's head in hand I bring
With garlands gay encircling, 1
I pray you all with me to sing,
With Hey !

Lords, knights, and squires,
Parsons, priests, and vicars,
The boar's head is the first mess, 2
With Hey !

The boar's head, as I now say,
Takes its leave and goes away,
Goeth after the Twelfth day,
With Hey !

Then comes in the second course with great pride,
The cranes, the herons, the bitterns, by their side,
The partridges, the plovers, the woodcocks, and the snipe,
Larks in hot snow, for the ladies to pick,
Good drink also, luscious and fine,
Blood of Allemaine, romnay, and wine,
With Hey !

Good brewed ale and wine, I dare well say,
The boar's head with mustard armed so gay,
Furmity for pottage, and venison fine,
And the umbles of the doe and all that ever comes in,
Capons well baked, with knuckles of the roe,
Raisins and currants, and other spices too,
With Hey !


1. Porttorying in the original, a word not explained in any glossary

2 That is, " the first dish."

Brogyntyn ii.1
Formerly known as the Porkington Manuscript, #10, f 202 r.

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru
The National Library of Wales

Porkington-10-f202r-1.jpg (223186 bytes) Porkington-10-f202r-2.jpg (224553 bytes)

Sylvester's Note:

The following is, perhaps, the most ancient of all the Boar's Head Carols. It is preserved in a manuscript of the fifteenth century. It has been remarked, that, in spite of the invitations contained in these Carols to partake of the " first mess," the Boar's Head, it is conjectured, was little else but a show dish ; for, in all the allusions to it, mention is only made of one head being served at each feast, though, even were the number greater, it could hardly have been sufficient to have yielded a mouthful a-piece to the numerous guests who were generally present at these entertainments. Between the courses the minstrels played and sang, the jesters cracked their smartest jokes, and practised their most extravagant antics ; and I dare say, the famous Dance of Fools was not unfrequently performed at this particular juncture, before the attention of the guests came to be directed to the more exciting business which was so soon to follow. 

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.

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