The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Down With The Rosemary and Bays

Candlemas Eve
(February 1st)

Words: Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Poem 6 of 7 of Christmas Customs from Herrick

Source: William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868)

1. Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the mistletow;1
Instead of holly now upraise
The greener box for show.

2. The holly hitherto did sway,
Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter day,
Or Easter's Eve appear.

3. Then youthful box which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.

4. When yew is out, then birth comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin,
To honour Whitsuntide.

5. Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comly ornaments,
To readorn the house.

6. Thus times do shift;
Each thing his turn doth hold;
New things succeed,
As former things grow old.


1. This is the first reference to the mistletoe, in its quality of a Christmas evergreen, that we have met with in the writings of our early poets, according to Henry Vizetelly, Christmas With The Poets (London: David Bogue, 1851). Return

At left: "Burning The Christmas Greens", From Harper's Weekly, 1876.

Husk's Note:

On this day the Christmas ceremonies, which had lingered on after Twelfth-day, finally closed, and all traces of them were removed. The custom long prevailed, and there must be many still living who can remember the evergreens with which our churches were decorated at Christmas, remaining until Candlemas [February 2nd].

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