A Yule-Tide Carol
Words and Music: Unknown
Bodleian Library, MS Eng. poet. e. I, f. 22 r. XV Century
Source: William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868)
Make we mirth
For Christ His Birth
And sing we Yule till Candlemas.
1. The first day of Yule we have in mind
How man was born all of our kind,
For He would the bonds unbind
Of all our sin and wickedness.
2. The second day we sing of Stephen
That stoned was, and said1 up even
With Christ there he would stand in heaven,
And crowned was for his prowess.
3. The third day 'longs to St. John,
That was Christ's darling, dearest one,
To whom He took,2 when He should gone,
His dear mother for his cleanness.
4. The fourth day of the Children young
With Herod's wrath to death were throng,
Of Christ they cold not speak with tongue,
But with their blood bare witness.
5. The fifth day hallowed St. Thomas,
Right as strong as pillar of brass,
Held up his church and slain was,
For he stood fast in righteousness.
8. The eighty day took Jesu His name,
That saved mankind from sin and shame,
And circumcised was for no blame,
But for example of meekness.
9. The twelfth day offered to Him Kings three,
Gold, myrrh, incense, these gifts free,
For God and man and king is He,
And thus they worshipped his worthiness.
10. The fortieth day came Mary mild
Unto the Temple with her child,
To shew her clean that never was 'filed,
And herewith ends Christmas.
1. Rickert gives "stied" which she notes means "ascended." Return
2. Rickert gives "betook" which she notes means "entrusted." Return
This carol is contained in the same valuable manuscript as the preceding [a manuscript of the time of Henry VI, 1421-1471, preserved in the British Museum]. Like Welcome Yule, it enumerates, but with more particularity, the various festivals celebrated during Yule-tide. There is another copy, slightly differing from the present, in a manuscript of the same age, which was edited by Mr. Thomas Wright for the Percy Society in 1847 [below]; and in which he stanza relating to St. Thomas of Canterbury, Mr. Wright tells us, has been blotted out by a later hand. This is not a singular instance of such disfigurement of books containing passages in which "the holy blissful martyr," as Chaucer terms him, was favourably mentioned. That the memory of Thomas à Becket, the sturdy assertor of the supremacy of the spiritual over the temporal power, should be obnoxious to that quondam "Defender of the Faith," Henry VIII [1491-1547], was not unnatural, and it is not surprising he should have used the most persevering efforts to extirpate the reverence in which the people had for ages held the murdered Archbishop, and which had made his shrine at Canterbury the most frequented place of pilgrimage in England. There are still extant many missals and other service books in which the pen has been unsparingly used, not merely in obliterating the name of "St. Thomas of Canterbury" from the calendar, but in blotting out the entire office appointed for his fest day.
See also: Welcome Yule - Rickert.
There are four versions of this carol on this website, including this page:
The First Day Of Yule – Husk, with note
The ferste day of yol we han in mynde - Thomas Wright, Specimens of old Christmas Carols (1841) (From MS. Sloan 2593, fol. 80, v0)
The fyrst day of yole have we in mynd - Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols Now First Printed, From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (1847)
Days and Feasts referred to in this song:
Feast day of St. Stephan, the First Martyr, is December 26; See: Hymns to St Stephen
Feast day of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist is December 27; See: Hymns To St. John The Evangelist
Feast day of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, is December 28; See: The Hymns Of The Holy Innocents
Feast day of St. Thomas à Becket, Bishop and Martyr, is December 28;
January 1 is the Octave of Christmas, and the start of the New Year;
Twelfth Day is Epiphany, January 6;
Candlemas (the blessing of the candles) is February 2; also celebrated on February 2 is The Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
This might be considered one of the "counting" songs among the hymns and carols of Christmas. See the notes to the Twelve Days of Christmas.
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