The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Down In Yon Forest

A Eucharistic Carol

Appalachia, Collected by John Jacob Niles
The musical arrangement published by G. Schirmer is distributed by
Hal Leonard Corporation, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Compare: Down In Yon Forest, collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Traditional English Version from Derbyshire, XIX Century.

1. Down in yon forest be a hall,
    Sing May, Queen May, sing Mary!
'Tis coverlided over with purple and pall.
    Sing all good men for the new-born Baby!

2. Oh in that hall is a pallet bed:
    Sing May, Queen May, sing Mary!
'Tis stained with blood like cardinal red.
    Sing all good men for the new-born Baby!

3. And at that pallet is a stone
    Sing May, Queen May, sing Mary!
On which the Virgin did atone
    Sing all good men for the new-born Baby!

4. Under that Hall is a gushing flood:
    Sing May, Queen May, sing Mary!
From Christ's own side 'tis water and blood.
    Sing all good men for the new-born Baby!

5. Beside that bed a shrub tree grows,
    Sing May, Queen May, sing Mary!
Since He was born hit blooms and blows.
    Sing all good men for the new-born Baby!

6. Oh, on that bed a young Squire sleeps,
    Sing May, Queen May, sing Mary!
His wounds are sick, and see, he weeps.
    Sing all good men for the new-born Baby!

7. Oh hail yon Hall were none can sin,
    Sing May, Queen May, sing Mary!
Cause hit's gold outside and silver within,
    Sing all good men for the new-born Baby!

According to Niles, collected in Cherokee County, North Carolina.

Bruce Cockburn writes: If there were a contest for the title of the spookiest Christmas carol, this ought to win hands down.  Collected earlier in this century by John Jacob Niles, it hails from North Carolina. I believe it to be of great age, though, both because of the melodic style and because of the lyrics, which resonate with the Grail myth, and with the ancient custom of every few years draining the blood out of one's king onto the soil to ensure its continuing fertility.

Bruce Cockburn, christmas (Truth North Productions, 1990).

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