The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Christmas Is My Name

Christmas's Lamentation
For the losse of his Acquaintance, showing how he is forst to leave the
Country, and come to London. To the tune of, Now the Spring is come.

For Christmas

Alternate Titles: Christmas Lamentation, Christmas' Lamentation, Christmas's Lamentation
See: Christmas Lamentation, The 17th Century Broadside from the Roxburghe Collection

Words: Unknown

Music: Now The Spring Is Come

Source: William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868), pp. 161-165.

In this song, Christmas is decrying the loss of traditional Christmas celebrations in the country, wherein the Lord's opened their Manors to the commoners. This practice came to a halt when it became the practice of the Nobility to spend Christmas in "London-ward." Hence:

Houses where pleasures once did abound,
Nought but a dog and a shepherd is found, ...
Places where Christmas revels did keep,
Now are become habitations for sheep.

1. Christmas is my name, far have I gone,
Have I gone, have I gone, have I gone,
    without regard1
Whereas great men by flocks there were flown,
There to be flown, there to be flown, there to be flown,
    to London-ward;
Where they in pomp and pleasure do waste
That which Christmas was wonted to feast,
    Welladay!
Houses where music was wont for to ring
Nothing but bats and owlets do sing.
    Welladay! Welladay! Welladay!
        Where should I stay?

2. Christmas beef and bread is turn'd into stones
    and silken rags;
And Lady Money sleeps and makes moans
    in miser's bags;
Houses where pleasure once did abound
Nought but a dog and a shepherd is found,
    Welladay!
Places where Christmas revels did keep
And now become habitations for sheep.
    Welladay! Welladay! Welladay!
        Where should I stay?

3. Pan, the shepherd's god, doth deface
    Lady Ceres' crown,
And tillage that doth go to decay
    in every town:
Landlords their rents so highly enhance
that Pierce, the ploughman, bare-foot may dance;
    Welladay!
And farmers that Christmas would entertain,
Have scarce wherewith themselves to maintain.
    Welladay! Welladay! Welladay!
        Where should I stay?

4. Come to the countryman, he will protest,
    and of bull beef boast;
And for the citizen, he is so hot
    he will burn the roast.
The courtier he good deeds will not scorn,
Nor will he see poor Christmas forlorn:
    Welladay!
Since none of these good deeds will do,
Christmas had best turn courtier too.
    Welladay! Welladay! Welladay!
        Where should I stay?

5. Pride and luxury they do devour
    housekeeping quite;
And beggary that doth beget
    in many a knight.
Madam, forsooth, in her couch must wheel,
Although she wear her hose out at heel,
    Welladay!
And on her back wear that for a weed
Which me and all my fellows would feed.
    Welladay! Welladay! Welladay!
        Where should I stay?

6. Since price came up with the yellow starch,
    poor folks do want,
And nothing the rich man will to them give,
    but do them taunt;
For Charity from the country is fed,
And in her place hath left naught but need:
    Welladay!
And corn is grown to so high a price,
It makes poor men cry with weeping eyes.
    Welladay! Welladay! Welladay!
        Where should I stay?

7. Briefly for to end, here I do find
    a great vacation,
That most great houses seem to attain
    a strong pergation:
Where purging pills such effects they have thrown,
    Welladay!
And whereas Christmas comes by and calls,
Nought but solitary and naked walls.
    Welladay! Welladay! Welladay!
        Where should I stay?

8. Philemon's cottage was turned into gold
    for harbouring Jove:
Rich men their houses for to keep
    might their greatness move;
But in the city they say they do live,
Where gold by handfulls away they do give:
    I'll away,
And thither therefore I purpose to pass,
Hopeing at London to find the Golden Ass.
    I'll away, I'll away, I'll away,
        for here's no stay.

Husk's Note:

This piece, having more of the character of a ballad than of a carol, may possibly be considered as rather out of place in the present collection; but its singularity, its curious exhibition of the decay of hospitality and general degeneracy of the times, and its striking contrast with the following carol [All You That To Feasting and Mirth Are Inclin'd], which is a kind of reply to it, seemed to call for its insertion. It is found on a very rare, and perhaps unique, broadsheet, preserved in the very valuable collection known as the Roxburgh Ballads, in the British Museum. [See Below]

The full title is “Christmas' Lamentation for the losse of his acquaintance; showing how he is forst to leave the Country and come to London. To the tune of Now the Spring is come. Printed at London for F(rancis) C(oles) dwelling in the old Bayly.”

The mention of “yellow starch” [in the sixth verse above] is a fashionable frivolity shows the date of the production of the ballad to be between the latter end of Elizabeth's reign [1603] and the close of the year 1615, when “yellow starch” grew into disfavour in consequence, it is said, of Anne Turner, one of the accomplices of King James and the Somersets in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, and the introducer of the fashion, appearing at the place of execution, pursuant to her sentence, in “a cobweb lawn ruff of that colour;” — and, what must have appeared more odious still in the eyes of “the fashionable world,” the hangman being tricked out for the occasion with “bands and cuffs of yellow.”

Repetition of words, similar to those forming the second and fifth lines of the first verse, occur in every verse of the original; but as these are only occasioned by the exigencies of the tune to which the ballad is to be sung, it has been thought advisable to omit them in the present copy.

Note:

1. John Ashton, in A Righte Merrie Christmasse!!! (circa 1904, reprinted 1968) gives this slightly different second lines of the first verse:

Christmas is my name, far have I gone,
    Without regard; without regard.

Ashton also makes mention to yellow starch, Mrs. Turner's execution, and the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury in 1615 (see below for additional sordid details). Return


Editor's Note:  The following note is from William Chappell, The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time. London: Chappell & Co., 1859, pp. 463-5:

Christmas's Lamentation

The words and tune of this ballad are contained in Gamble’s MS. common place book. The ballad is also in the Roxburghe Collection, i. 48, entitled “Christmas’ Lamentation for the losse of his acquaintance; showing how he is forst to leave the Country, and come to London. To the tune of Now the Spring is come.”

The ballad, “Now the Spring is come,” is in the same Collection, i. 200, entitled “A Lover’s desire for his best beloved; or, Come away, come away, and do not stay. To an excellent new Court tune.” It commences thus :—

“Now the Spring is come, turn to thy love,
To thy love, to thy love, to thy love;
make no delay.
While the flowers spring and the birds do sing
Their sweet tunes, their sweet tunes, their sweet tunes,
and do not stay:
Where I will fill thy lap full of flowres,
And cover thee with shady bowres,
Come away, come away, come away,
And do not stay.”

This copy of the ballad, having been printed by the assigns of Thomas Symcocke, is of the reign of James I. Christmas’s Lamentation must also be a ballad of the reign of Elizabeth or James I., although the Roxburghe copy is not of so early a date. Yellow starch is mentioned in the sixth stanza, and it came into fashion in the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth, and continued until November, 1615, the date of the execution of the celebrated beauty, Mrs. Turner, for participation in the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury. When the Lord Chief Justice Coke sentenced her to death, he ordered that, “as she was the person who had brought yellow starched ruffs into vogue, she should be hanged in that dress, that the same might end in shame and detestation.” “Even the hangman who executed this unfortunate woman was decorated with yellow ruffs on the Occasion.” (Rimbault’s Life of Overbury.)

The rhythm of the first part of the following tune is peculiar, from its alternate phrases of two and three bars, but, still, not unsatisfactory to the ear.

I have not thought it necessary to print, at length, all the repetitions of words that occur in the ballad, as they are sufficiently indicated by the first stanza which is here adapted to the music.

2. Christmas beef and bread is turn’d into stones,
Into stones and silken rags;
And Lady Money sleeps and makes moans,
And makes moans in misers’ bags:
Houses where pleasures once did abound,
Nought but a dog and a shepherd is found,
Welladay!
Places where Christmas revels did keep,
Now are become habitations for sheep.
Welladay, welladay,
Welladay, where should I stay?

3. Pan, the shepherd’s god, cloth deface,
Doth deface Lady Ceres’ crown,
And the tillage doth go to decay,
To decay in every town;
Landlords their rents so highly enhance,
That Pierce, the ploughman, barefoot may dance;
Welladay!
Farmers, that Christmas would still entertain,
Scarce have wherewith themselves to maintain.
Welladay, &c.

4. Come to the countryman, he will protest,
Will protest, and of bull-beef boast;
And for the citizen he is so hot,
Is so hot, he will burn the roast.
The courtier, sure good deeds will not scorn,
Nor will he see poor Christmas forlorn ?—
Welladay!
Since none of these good deeds will do,
Christmas had best turn courtier too.
Welladay, &c.

5. Pride and luxury they do devour,
Do devour housekeeping quite;
And soon beggary they do beget,
Do beget in many a knight.
Madam, forsooth, in her coach must wheel,
Although she wear her hose out at heel,
Welladay!
And on her back wear that for a weed,
Which me and all my fellows would feed.
Welladay, &c.

6. Since pride came up with the yellow starch,
Yellow starch, poor folks do want,
And nothing the rich men will to them give,
To them give, but do them taunt;
For Charity from the country is fled,
And in her place hath nought left but need;
Welladay!
And corn is grown to so high a price,
It makes poor men cry with weeping eyes.
Welladay, &c.

7. Briefly for to end, here I do find,
I do find so great vacation,
That most great houses seem to attain
To attain a strong purgation:
Where purging pills such effects they have shew’d,
That forth of doors they their owners have spued;
Welladay!
And where’er Christmas comes by, and calls,
Nought now but solitary and naked walls.
Welladay, &c.

8. Philemon’s cottage was turn’d into gold,
Into gold, for harbouring Jove:
Rich men their houses up for to keep,
For to keep, might their greatness move;
But in the city, they say, they do live,
Where gold by bandfulls away they do give
I’ll away,
And thither, therefore, I purpose to pass,
Hoping at London to find the golden ass.
Ill away, I’ll away,
I’ll away, for here’s no stay.

Chappell adds this additional note in his appendix, p. 783:

"The flocking of the nobility to London at Christmas, complained of in the ballad, was the occasion of a proclamation by James I., which is thus noticed in a letter from Mr. Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Carleton, bearing date Dec. 21, 1622: “Divers Lords and personages of quality have made means to be dispensed withall for going into the country this Christmas according to the proclamation; but it will not be granted, so that they pack away on all sides for fear of the worst.” (Nichols’s Progresses of James I.)"

The King's Proclamation required the Nobility to observe Christmas in their traditional homes in the country, and forbad them from observing the holiday in London. In part, this would also function to restore the traditional opening of the Lord's Manor to the commoners during the Christmas-tide for feasts, musical shows, games, and other festive pursuits.

King James I. was succeeded by his son, King Charles I., who eight years later would also issue a Proclamation requiring the nobility to spend their Christmas holidays at their homes in the country. The pertinent part of that Proclamation is found in this excerpt from King Charles I's Proclamation of 9 Sept 1630, A Proclamation for adjourning of part of Michaelmas Terme.

Editor's Note

We are fortunate to have a Broadside of this old carol / ballad. It is from the Roxburghe Collection in the British Museum and can be seen at the English Broadside Ballad Archive. For the text from the Broadside, see Christmas Lamentation. The Broadside indicated that it was "Printed at London for F.C. dwelling in the Old-Bayly." The EBBA estimates the date of this Broadside's publication to be between 1624 and 1680; Husk estimates the date of the song as between 1603 and 1615.

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.


Related Hymns and Carols