The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Bores Heed In Hand Bring I

A Carol
Bringyng In The Bores Heed
See:
Boar's Head Carols

Source: Wynkyn de Worde, Christmasse carolles newely enprinted (1521)

Caput apri differo
Reddens 'laudens' domino.

The bores heed in hand bring I,
With garlans gay and rosemary,
I pray you all synge merely
    Qui estis in conuiuio.

The bores heed I vnderstande
Is the thefe seruyce in this lande
Loke where euer it be fande
    Seruite cum cantico.

Be gladde lordes both more & lasse
For this hath ordeyned our stewarde
To chere you all this Christmasse
    The bores heed with mustarde.

Finis

Thus endeth the Christmasse carolles newely enprinted at London in the fletestrete at the sygne of the sonne by Wynkyn de Worde. The yere of our lord be. M.D.xxi.

Translations of the Latin from Adams, Round About Our Coal Fire (ca. 1860)

W. H. Davenport Adams provided these handy Latin translations for those of us who were unable to take a course of study in this ancient tongue.

1. Quot estis in convivio. = Ye who are now at the feast.
2. Caput Apri defero | Reddens laudes Domino. - I bring the boar's head, returning praise to the Lord.
3. Let us servire cantico. = Let us serve it with a song.
4. In Reginensi Atrio. = In the Queen's Hall.

Translations from W. H. Davenport Adams, Round About Our Coal Fire (London: James Blackwood, no date; "1860" written in pen, and the date of the Preface), p. 163.

Sandys' Note:

From Ritson's Ancient Songs, pp. 125-127, and there stated to be from Wynkyn de Worde's Christmasse Carolles, 1521. The following is the modern version of this carol, from Dibdin's Typog. Antiq. vol. ii. p. 252, as sung in Queen's College, Oxford.

The boar's head in hand bear I,
Bedeck'd with bays and rosemary;
And I pray you, my masters, be merry,
    Quot estis in convivio

       Caput Apri defero
        Reddens laudes Domino.

The boar's head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedeck'd with a gay garland,
    Let us servire cantico.

       Caput Apri defero
        Reddens laudes Domino.

Our Steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss;
Which on this day to be served is
    In reginensi Atrio.

       Caput Apri defero
        Reddens laudes Domino.


Also found in William Sandys, Christmas-tide, Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music (London: John Russell Smith, 1852), p. 231.

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 260.

Rickert gives the title as “A Carol Bringing In The Boar's Head” and cites her source as Wynkyn de Worde, Christmas Carolles.

Rickert more closely follows this version as given by Sandys (rather than Husk):

A Carol Bringing In The Boar's Head”

Caput apri defero
` Reddens laudes Domino.

The boar's head in hand bring I ,
With garlands gay and rosemary,
I pray you all sing merrily,
    Qui estis in conuiuio.

The boar's head, I understand,
Is the chief service in this land.
Look wherever it be found,
    Seruite cum cantico.

Be glad, lords, both more and less,
For this hath ordained our steward,
To cheer you all this Christmas,
The boar's head with mustard.

Editors' Note:

The only surviving page from Wynkyn de Worde's Christmas Carroles is the end piece, which contains this carol.  It is reproduced in Edward Reed Bliss, Christmas Carols Printed In The Sixteenth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1932), page 3. As Mr. Bliss' work is still under copyright, I cannot reproduce that page here. The only errata to the text reproduced by Mr. Sandys (from Mr. Bliss) is:

Also found in Ritson, Ancient Songs and Ballads From The Reign of King Henry the Second To The Revolution (1790), pp. 125-126:

Printed from that eminent and excellent antiquary Thomas Hearnes "Notae & Spicilegium" to William of Newborough (III. 745), where it is thus introduced: -- "I will beg leave here to give an exact copy of the Christmas Carol upon the Boar's Head (which is an ancient Dish, and was brought up by K. Henry 'II.' with Trumpets before his Son when his said Son was crowned [Hollynshed's Chron. Vol. III. p. 76]) as I have it in an old Fragment (for I usually preserve even Fragments of old books) of the Christmass Carols printed by Wynkyn de Worde, .... by which it will be perceived how much the same Carol is altered as it is sung in some places even now from what it was at first. It is the last Thing, it seems, of the Book (which I never yet saw intire) and at the same time I think it proper also to add the Printer's Conclusion, for this reason, at least, that such as write about 'our first Printers may have some notice of the Date of this book, and the exact Place where printed, provided they cannot be able to meet with it, as I believe they will find it pretty difficult to do, it being much laid aside about the time that some of David's Psalms came to be used in its stead."

Editor's Note: The balance of the note in the 1790 edition is the same as that in the 1877 edition (below), and is therefore omitted.

Also found in 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. Repr. Detroit, MI: Singing Tree Press, 1968, pp. 158-59.

A CAROL ON BRINGING UP A BOARS HEAD TO THE TABLE ON CHRISTMAS-DAY.

— Printed from that eminent and excellent antiquary Thomas Hearnes "Notae et Spicilegium" to William of Newborough here to give an exact copy of the Christmas Carl upon the Boar's Head (which is an ancient dish, and was brought up by K. Henry 'II.' with trumpets before his son when his said son was crowned (Hollynshed's Chron. Vol. III. p. 76.) as I have it, in an old fragment (for I usually preserve how much the same Carol is altered as it is sung in some places even now from what it was at first.1 It is the last thing, it seems, of the book (which I never yet saw intire) and at the same time I think it proper also to add the printer's conclusion, for this reason, at least, that such as write about our first printers may have some notice of the date of this book, and the exact place where it was printed, provided they cannot be able to meet with it, as I believe they will find it pretty difficult to do, it being much laid aside about the time that some of David's psalms came to be used in it's steed." (See also his preface to "Robert of Gloucester's chronicle," p. xiii.)

The Colophon runs thus: ¶ Thus endeth the Christmasse carolles, newely enprinted at London, in the fletestrete at the sygne of the sonne by Wynkyn de Worde. The yere of our Lorde, M. D. cci.

This antique ceremony is still observed in Queens-college, Oxford, with this considerable improvement, indeed, that the Boars head is neatly carved in wood.

The book of Psalms above referred to is in a note thus described: "Certain of David's Psalms intended for Christmas Carolls fitted to the most common but solemnpne tunes, every where familiarly used: By William Slayter. Printed by Robert Young (1642) 8o."

Queen Margaret, wife to James IV. of Scotland, "at the furst course" of her wedding-dinner, "was served of a wyld borres hed gylt, with a fayr platter." (Lelands Collectanea, 1770, iii. 294)

The ancient crest of the family of Edgcumbe was the Boars head, crowned with bays, upon a charger; which has been very injudiciously changed into the entire animal. The partiality shown by one of this species to the late lord is the subject of a very humorous ode by the facetious Peter Pindar.

    Caput apri 'defero'2
    Reddens 'laudes'
3 domino.

The bores heed in hand bring I,
With 'garlands' gay and rosemary,
I pray you all synge merely,
    Qui estis in convivio.

The bores-head, I understande,
Is the 'chefe'4 servyce in this lande;
Loke where ever it be fande,
    Servite cum cantico.

Be gladde, lordes, bothe more and lasse,
    For this hath ordeyned our stewárde,
To chere you all this christmasse,
    The bores-heed with mustárde.

Notes From Mr. Ritson:

1. "An insinuation, cunningly, but plainly, levelled at the Gentlemen of Queen's." (Warton's "Companion to the guide," p. 29, 30. Return

2. differo. Return

3. laudens. Return

4. thefe. Return

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