The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Dives and Lazarus

For Christmas

Words and Music: Traditional
Compare: Lazarus

A Dialogue Between Dives and Lazarus

Source: Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old, Second Series (London: Novello, Ewer & Co., 1871), Carol #39

1. As it fell out upon a day,
Rich Dives made a feast,
And he invited all his friends,
And gentry of the best.

2. Then Lazarus laid him down and down,
And down1 at Dives' door;
Some meat, some drink, brother Dives,
Bestow upon the poor.

3. Thouírt2 none of my brother, Lazarus,
That lies begging at my door;
Nor meat nor drink will I give to thee,
Nor bestow upon the poor.

4. Then Lazarus laid him down and down
And down at Dives' wall;
Some meat, some drink, brother Dives,
Or with hunger starve I shall.

5. Thou'rt none of my brother, Lazarus,
That lies begging at my wall;
Nor meat nor drink will I give to thee,
But with hunger starve you shall.

6. Then Lazarus laid him down and down,
And down at Dives' gate;
Some meat, some drink, brother Dives,
For Jesus Christ his sake.

7. Thou'rt none of my brother, Lazarus,
That lies begging at my gate;
Nor meat nor drink will I give to thee,
For Jesus Christ His sake.

8. Then Dives sent out his merry men,3
To whip poor Lazarus away;
They had no power to strike a stroke,4
But flung their whips away.

9. Then Dives sent out his hungry dogs,
To bite him as he lay;
They had no power to bite at all,
But licked his sores away.

10. As it fell out upon a day,
Poor Lazarus sickened and died;
There came two Angels out of Heaven,
His soul therein to guide.

11. Rise up, rise up, brother Lazarus,
And come along with me;
There's a place in Heaven prepared for thee,
To sit upon an Angel's knee.5

12. As it fell out upon a day,
Rich Dives sickened and died;
There came two serpents out of Hell,
His soul therein to guide.

13. Rise up, rise up, brother Dives,
And come along with me;
There's a place in Hell prepared for thee,
To sit upon a serpent's knee.6

14. Then Dives looked with burning eyes,
And saw poor Lazarus blest;
One drop of water, Lazarus,
To quench my flaming thirst!7 8

15. Oh! had I as many years to abide
As there are blades of grass,
Then there would be an end: but now
Hell's pains will never9 pass.

16. Oh! were I but alive again,
For the space of one half hour,
I would make my peace and so secure
That the Devil should have no power!10

Notes:

1. Or "And down" is replaced by "E'en down" in all occurrences in A Good Christmas Box.. Return

2. "Thou'rt" is replaced by "Thou art" in all occurrences in A Good Christmas Box. Return

3. Or "savage men." (A Good Christmas Box). Return

4. Or "They had not power to strike one stroke." (A Good Christmas Box). Return

5. A Good Christmas Box gives the following for verse 11:

Rise up, rise up, brother Lazarus,
And go along with me,
For you've a place reserved in heaven,
In angels' company. Return

6. A Good Christmas Box gives the following for verse 13:

Rise up, rise up, brother Dives,
And go with me to see,
A dismal place prepared in hell,
From whence thou ne'er canst flee. Return

7. A Good Christmas Box gives the following for verse 14:

Then Dives looked up with streaming eyes,
And saw poor Lazarus blest,
Give me one drop of water brother Lazarus,
To quench my flaming thirst. Return

8. Husk gives the following for verse 14:

Then Dives, lifting his eyes to heaven,
And seeing poor Lazarus blest,
"Give me a drop of water, brother Lazarus,
To quench my flaming thirst." Return

9. Or: "ne'er be". (A Good Christmas Box). Return

10. A Good Christmas Box gives the following for verse 16:

Oh! Was I now but alive again,
The space of half an hour,
O that I had made my peace secure,
Then the Devil should have no power. Return

Sheet Music from Henry Ramsden Bramley and John Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old (London: Novello, Ewer & Co., ca 1871)

Dives_And_Lazarus_39a.gif (467644 bytes) Dives_And_Lazarus_39b.gif (450816 bytes)

Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), #33, pp. 58-59.

033a-Dives.jpg (145245 bytes) 033b-Dives.jpg (162711 bytes)

Copies of this carol on this web site:

Contrast this carol with a similar name and theme:

See also: Broadsides with Dives and Lazarus

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

This carol, I believe, has not been given in any previous collection. It is reprinted here from an old Birmingham broadside. Hone appears to have met with it, and alludes to a quaint rendering of the thirteenth verse which occurred in his copy. The lines are:

"Rise up, rise up, brother Dives,
And come along with me,
For you've a place provided in hell
To sit upon a serpent's knee."

The idea of sitting on the serpent's knee was, perhaps conveyed to the poet's mind by old woodcut representations of Lazarus seated in Abraham's lap. More anciently, Abraham was frequently drawn holding him up by the sides that he might be the better seen by Dives in the fiery pit.

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.

Also found in William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity. London: John Camden Hotten, 1868:

This carol is included in Hone's list of carols in his possession which were in use at the period he wrote -- 1822 [See: Christmas Carols now annually Printed]; but it was never printed in any collection until 1860 [Sylvester]. Hone speaks of the ludicrous effect produced by the thirteenth verse, "when the meter of the last line is solemnly drawn out to its utmost length by a Warwickshire chanter, and as solemnly listened to by the well-disposed crown, who see, without difficulty, to believe that Dives sits on a serpent's knee."

"The idea of sitting on the knee," he adds, "was perhaps conveyed to the poet's mind by old woodcut representations of Lazarus seated in Abraham's lap. More anciently, Abraham was frequently drawn holding him up by the sides, to be seen by Dives in hell. In an old book (Postilla Guillermi, 4to, Basil, 1491) they are so represented, with the addition of a devil blowing the fire under Dives with a pair of bellows." The idea may have been conveyed to the writer's mind, as Hone suggests, or it may be that the serpent's knee was only thought of as antithetical to the Angel's knee on which Lazarus was to rest. 

The carol is now given from a sheet copy printed at Worcester in the last century. The composition is much in the style of a sixteenth century ballad, but the last verse conveys an idea of greater antiquity, as it seems to give expression to the opinion that the devotion of worldly goods to pious or charitable uses sufficed to avert future punishment. There can be little, if any, doubt of this being the piece referred to in Fletcher's comedy of "Monsieur Thomas," where a fiddler is introduced, enumerating the songs he can sing, amongst which is "the merry ballad of Dives and Lazarus."

Lucy E. Broadwood and J. A. Fuller Maitland, English Country Songs. London: The Leadenhall Press, 1893.

The tune noted by A. J. Hipkins, Esq., F.S.A. in Westminster; the words from Notes and Queries, Ser. 4, vol. iii., 76.

It is not claimed that these words belong to the beautiful tune here given, but they suit it so well that there is a great probability of their having at one time been associated together. Mr. Hipkins knew no words for the tune, but has known it for many years under the name "Lazarus;" it was also recognized as the tune belonging to a song referring to the same subject, by an old woman in Westminster, in December, 1892. The last verse is quoted by Hone (Every Day Book, vol. i., p. 1598) as being still sung in 1826 in Warwickshire. The writer in Notes and Queries who gives it in extenso, as above, calls it a Worcestershire Carol. See also Husk's Songs of the Nativity, "Dives and Lazarus," where three more stanzas are given. In the above version the form Diverus is always sung; and the same form is alluded to in Fletcher's Monsieur Thomas (1639). In Beaumont and Fletcher's Nice Valour, act iv. sc. 1, "Dives" is spoken of as one of the ballads hanging at church corners. The tune should be compared with "The Thresher" (p. 68), and with "Cold blows the wind" (p. 34), as well as with "We are frozen-out gardeners," in Chappell's Popular Music. [See below] The tune strongly resembles "Gilderoy," see notes to "Cold blows the wind" (p. 34).

Sheet Music from Broadwood and Fuller-Maitland
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Editor's Note: The version given by Bramley and Stainer has largely appropriated that older verse.  The 13th verse given by Sylvester is:

Rise up, rise up, brother Dives,
And go with us to see
A dismal place prepared in hell,
From which thou canst not flee.

Aside from this difference, the version given by Bramley and Stainer largely tracks with that given by Sylvester. As noted above, A Good Christmas Box has a verse 13 that is almost the same as given by Sylvester.

William Hone, The Every Day Book, 2 vols. London: William Tegg, 1825, 1827. Vol. 1 (entry for December 24):

In a carol, still sung, called "Dives and Lazarus," there is this amusing account:

"As it fell it out, upon a day,
Rich Dives sicken'd and died,
There came two serpents out of hell,
His soul therein to guide.

"Rise up, rise up, brother Dives,
And come along with me,
For you've a place provided in hell,
To set upon a serpent's knee."

However whimsical this may appear to the reader, he can scarcely conceive its ludicrous effect, when the "serpent's knee" is solemnly drawn out to its utmost length by a Warwickshire chanter, and as solemnly listened to by the well-disposed crowd, who seem, without difficulty, to believe that Dives sits on a serpent's knee. The idea of sitting on this knee was, perhaps, conveyed to the poet's mind by old wood-cut representations of Lazarus seated in Abraham's lap. More anciently, Abraham was frequently drawn holding him up by the sides, to be seen by Dives in hell. In an old book now before me, they are so represented, with the addition of a devil blowing the fire under Dives with a pair of bellows.

Editor's Note: The following notes is from William Chappell, The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time. London: Chappell & Co., 1859, pp. 747-8.

We Are Poor Frozen Our Gardeners.

"This is the tune of many songs. If the reader should meet any half a-dozen men perambulating the streets of London together, and singing, the probabilities are great that they sing to this tune. Sometimes the men are dressed like sailors; at other times they look like workmen out of employment. I recollect hearing the tune at Kilburn, full forty years ago, and have, with tolerable annual regularity, ever since. I regret never having stopped to hear the words."

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