The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Come, Buy My Nice Fresh Ivy

Alternate Titles: Irish Flower Girl Song
or Irish Flower Girl's Song
or The Holly and Ivy Girl
or The Holly And The Ivy Girl.
See Notes under The Holly And The Ivy.

Words: John Keegan (1809-1849)
Said to have been first published in
The Irishman, number 1, January 1849.

Music: O'Carolan's Lament (Uaill-Cuma ui Cearballain), Turlough O'Carolan
From Capt. Francis O'Neill, Music of Ireland (Chicago: Lyon & Healy, 1903), #69
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

A contemporary arrangement and recording can be found on the 2002 CD Gramercy by the Latvian musical group Olive Mess (with soprano vocals by Ilze Paegle, formerly with the vocal ensemble Canto)

Contributed by E. Hale

1. Come, buy my nice fresh ivy, and my holly sprigs so green.
I have the finest branches that ever yet were seen.
Come buy from me, good Christians, and let me home, I pray,
That God will bless your Christmas and a happy New Year's Day

2. Ah, won't you buy my ivy? It's the loveliest I've seen.
Ah, won't you buy my holly? Oh you who love the green.
Do take a little branch of each, and on my knees I'll pray
That God will bless your Christmas and a happy New Year's Day.

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O'Carolans Lament

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Editor's Note:

Another version splits these two verses into a total of four verses, with slightly different lyrics (adapted by Henner Diederich):

Come buy my nice fresh ivy,
And my holly boughts so green,
I have the fairest branches,
That ever yet were seen.

Come buy from me good Christians,
And let me home I pray,
And I'll wish you a merry Christmas time,
And a happy New Year's Day.

Ah! won't you take my ivy?
The lovliest ever seen,
Ah! won't you have my holly boughts?
All you that love the Green.

Do! take a little bunch of each
And on my knees I'll pray,
That God may bless your Christmas
And be with you New Year's Day.

These are the lyrics being performed by the Cór Na Nog Rté Choir in the opening moments of the 2002 movie "Evelyn." The closing credits give attribution to "Irish Traditional." This song is not on the soundtrack.

The Mudcat Cafe had a terrific thread going concerning Irish music, which contained details on this song, plus the full lyrics:

"Come, buy my nice, fresh Ivy, and my Holly sprigs so green;
I have the finest branches that ever yet were seen.
Come, buy fro me, good Christians, and let me home, I pray,
And I'll wish you 'Merry Christmas Times, and a happy New Year's Day"

"Ah! Won't you take my ivy? - the loveliest ever seen!
Ah! Won't you have my Holly boughs? - all you who love the Green!
Do! - take a little bunch of each, and on my knees I'll pray,
That God may bless your Christmas and be with you New Year's Day."

"This wind is black and bitter, and the hail-stones do not spare
My shivering form, my bleeding feet, and stiff, entangled hair;
Then, when the skies are pitiless, be merciful, I say -
So heaven will light your Christmas and the coming New Year's Day."

'Twas thus a dying maiden sung, while the cold hail rattled down,
And fierce winds whistled mournfully o'er Dublin's dreary town:--
One stiff hand clutched her Ivy sprigs and Holly boughs so fair;
With the other she kept brushing the haildrops from her hair

So grim and statue-like she seemed, 'twas evident the Death
Was lurking in her footsteps - while her hot impeded breath
Too plainly told her early doom - though the burden of her lay
Was still of life and Christmas joys, and a Happy New Year's Day.

'Twas in that broad, bleak Thomas Street, I heard the wanderer sing,
I stood a moment in the mire, beyond the ragged ring-
My heart felt cold and lonely, and my thoughts were far away,
Where I was many a Christmas-tide and Happy New Year's Day.

I dreamed of wonderings in the woods among the Holly Green;
I dreamed of my own native cot and porch with Ivey Screen:
I dreamed of lights forever dimm'd - of Hopes that can't return -
And dropped a tear on Christmas fires that never more can burn.

The ghost-like singer still sung on, but no one came to buy;
The hurrying crowd passed to and fro, but did not heed her cry;
She uttered on low, piercing moan-then cast her boughs away-
And smiling, cried-"I'll rest with God before the New Year's Day!"

On New Year's Day I said my prayers above a new-made grave,
Dug recently in sacred soi, by Liffey's murmuring wave;
The Minstrel maid from Earth to Heaven has winged her happy way,
And now enjoys, with sister saints, and endless New Year's Day.

The source which was cited was "Irish Songs And Ballads" (date unknown, approximately 220 pages).

Turlough O'Carolan, also called Terence Carolan (born Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin, 1670, near Nobber, County Meath, Ireland, died March 25th, 1738, Alderford, County Roscommon), one of the last Irish harpist-composers and the only one whose songs survive in both words and music in significant number (about 220 of provable tunes exist with large number attributed to him).

For more information, see The Complete Works of Turlough O'Carolan. Another terrific resource is Turlough O'Carolan, Irish Harper. This site contains a biography, a list of songs, plus other links to O'Carolan web sites. It also has a second version of O'Carolan's Lament that are significantly different from that found in O'Neill's Music of Ireland (above). It does, however, match the version printed in Miles Krassen, O'Neill's Music of Ireland, New and Revised (New York: Oak Publications, 1976), p. 245 (MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF).

Upon additional research, it was determined that the proper title of this latter tune is Lament for Roe Owen O'Neill (Uaill Cuma Eogan Ruaid Ua Niall).  It is said to have been Turlough O'Carolan's lament for the nephew of the great Earl of Tyrone who led the Irish to a victory over General Monroe's Anglo-Scottish army at Benburb in 1646. General O'Neill's death on November 6, 1949 marked the end of the Irish hope of defeating Cromwell. It is #626 of the original O'Neill's Music of Ireland.

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