The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Dives and Lazarus

For Christmas

Words and Music: English Traditional

Source: William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity. (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868), pp. 94-97.

See: Bramley and Stainer, Dives and Lazarus, with Notes.

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

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

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

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

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

10. As it fell out upon a day,
    Poor Lazarus sickened and died;
There came an Angel out of Heaven,
    His soul there for to guide.

11. Rise up, rise up, brother Lazarus,
    And come along with me;
For there's a place in Heaven provided
    To sit upon an Angel's knee.

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

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

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.

15. Oh! had I as many years to abide
    As there are blades of grass,
Then there would be an ending day;
    But in hell I must ever last.

16. Oh! was I now but alive again,
    For the space of one half hour,
I would make my will and thensecure
    That the devil should have no power!

Notes by Husk:

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."

Editor's Note:

This carol did appear in one collection prior to Sylvester in 1861. It appeared in A Good Christmas Box (1843). It was also printed on a number of Broadsides over the years, as early as possibly 1806. See: Broadsides with Dives and Lazarus

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