A Christmas Carol, Sung To The King In The Presence At Whitehall
Words: Robert Herrick (1591-1674), 1647
Source: Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861)
Chor. What sweeter musick can we bring,
Then a Carol, for to sing
The birth of this our Heavenly King?
Awake the voice! awake the string!
Heart, Ear, and Eye, and every thing
Awake! the while the active finger
Runs division with the singer.
From the Flourish they came to the Song
1. Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honor to this Day,
That sees December turned to May.
2. If we may ask the reason, say
The why, and wherefore all things here
Seem like the spring time of the year?
3. Why does the chilling sinters mourn
Smile, like a field beset with corn?
Or smell, like to a mead new-shorn,
Thus, on the sudden?
4. Come and see
The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
'Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
Gives life and luster, public mirth,
To Heaven and the under-Earth.
Chor. We see Him come, and know Him ours,
Who with His sunshine and His showers,
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
1. The Darling of the world is come,
And fit it is we find a room
To welcome Him.
2. The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart,
Chor. Which we will give Him; and bequeath
This holly, and this ivy wreath,
To do Him honour who's our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.
The Musical Part was composed by M. Henry Lawes.
Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861):
Among all our English poets, the one who has left us by far the most complete contemporary picture of the Christmas season was a country clergyman of the reign of Charles I who held a small living in a remote part of Devonshire. This was Robert Herrick, the author of "Hesperides," and of the following beautiful carol.
Note that Hugh Keyte, an editor of The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) believes that "Joshua Sylvestre" is a pseudonym for a collaboration between William Sandys (1792-1874) and William Henry Husk (1814-1887). See Appendix 4.
Robert Herrick left a considerable legacy of Christmas carols and customs. See this article, with links, by Henry Vizetelly, from Christmas With The Poets: Robert Herrick
See also: Christmas Customs - Robert Herrick.
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