Earliest Version of The Corpus Christi Carol
Words: Traditional English, c. 1400
Balliol College, Oxford. MS. 354. XVI Century.
Source: Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, Second Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd., 1913), Carol #39
Lully, lulley, lully, lulley,
The falcon hath borne my make1 away.
1. He bare him
up, he bare him down,
He bare him into an orchard brown. Burden
2. In that
orchard there was a hall
That was all hung with purple and pall. Burden
3. And in that
hall there was a bed,
'Twas hung around with gold so red. Burden
4. And in that
bed there lieth a knight,
His wound do bleed by day and night. Burden
5. By that
bedside kneeleth a may,
She weepeth sore both night and day. Burden
6. And by that
bedside there standeth a stone,
With Corpus Christi written thereon. Burden
1. Make = mate. Return
Note from Shaw and Dearmer:
For the exact text of c. 1400, here slightly adapted for singing, see the First Series of the English Carol Book, p. 17, Over Yonder's A Park.
Verse 1: To make the meaning clearer, “mate” is substituted for the obsolete “make.”
Verse 5: “May” = maid.
This carol, of which the follow following is a modern version, is interesting as showing the persistence of a lyric for four hundred years (the first version is probably of the fifteenth century, the second was taken from a recital of a boy who came with morris-dancers, some years before 1862, cf. Notes and Queries, third series, ii, p. 103); and also because it seems to have been suggested by some form of the legend of the Holy Grail. The Bleeding Knight is Christ, the "may" is His mother, the "falcon" is introduced apparently to suggest that the body of the person is a vision. It is interesting to note that the modern version is the more specific of the two, adding the hound which licks the blood (the Church?) and the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury, which is intimately associated with the Grail story. See: The Glastonbury Thorn.
If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.