The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

For Christmas
This is the Christmas carol of Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Words: Traditional English, 18th Century
Also: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
And (erroneously): God Rest You, Merry Gentlemen

Compare: God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
[Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826 - 1887)]
See also God Bless You All Good Christian Men

Music: "Tidings of Comfort and Joy" as found in "The overthrow of proud Holofernes, and the
Triumph of virtuous Queen Judith," the Halliwell Collection of Broadsides, No. 263, Chetham
Library.
1
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This is the Bramley & Stainer Arrangement
Sheet Music Is Below

Source: William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833)
Also found in William Sandys, Christmas-tide, Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music (London: John Russell Smith, 1852), pp. 256-7.

See Notes to 'God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen'
See: A Child of the Snows-Chesterton

1. God rest you merry, gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay.
For Jesus Christ our Savior,2
Was born on Christmas Day;3
To save us all from Satan’s power,
When we were gone astray.

Chorus
O tidings of comfort and joy,
For Jesus Christ our Savior
Was born on Christmas day.4

2. In Bethlehem, in Jury,5
This blessed Babe was born,6
And laid within a manger,
Upon this blessed morn;
The which His mother Mary
Did nothing take in scorn.7 Chorus

3. From God our heavenly Father,
A blessed angel came.
And unto certain shepherds,
Brought tidings of the same,
How that in Bethlehem was born,
The Son of God by name: Chorus

4. Fear not, then said the Angel,
Let nothing you affright,
This day is born a Savior,
Of virtue, power, and might;8
So frequently to vanquish all,
The friends of Satan quite;9 Chorus

5. The shepherds at those tidings,
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a feeding,
In tempest, storm, and wind,
And went to Bethlehem straightway,
This blessed babe to find:10 Chorus

6. But when to Bethlehem they came,
Whereas this infant lay11
They found him in a manger,
Where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling,12
Unto the Lord did pray: Chorus

7. With sudden joy and gladness13
The shepherds were beguiled,
To see the Babe if Israel,
Before His mother mild,
O then with joy and cheerfulness
Rejoice, each mother's child.  Chorus

8. Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood,
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas,
Doth bring redeeming grace.14 Chorus

9. God bless the ruler of this house,
And send him long to reign,
And many a merry Christmas
May live to see again;
Among your friends and kindred
That live both far and near. Alternate Chorus:

That God send you a happy new year,
Happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.

Notes

 1. For the traditional English melody, see The Cambridge Hymnal, edited by David Holbrook and Elizabeth Poston (Cambridge, Eng.: University Press, 1967), pp. 236-37. The account of the visit of the shepherds to the Christ child is found in Luke 2:8-20. A fuller history of this carol is in The New Oxford Book of Carols, ed. Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 527. See also Notes to God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen. Return

2. Or: 'Remember Christ our Savior,' Or 'For Jesus Christ our Saviour…' (Bramley and Stainer, ca. 1860s).

3. Or 'Was born on Christmas Day;' Or 'Was born 'upon this day' Return

4. An alternate chorus, which frequently occurs in modern versions (from Bramley & Stainer):

O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.

5. Jury: Jewry, the land of the Israelites. Sylvester gives "Jewry." Return

6. Or: In Bethlehem, 'in Israel,' this blessed Babe was born Return

7. Or: 'Nothing did take in scorn.' (Bramley and Stainer) Return

8. Or: This day is born a Savior, Of 'a pure Virgin bright,' Return

9. Or: 'So frequently to vanish all the friends of Satan quite.' Or: 'To free all those who trust in Him, From Satan’s power and might' (Bramley and Stainer). Instead of 'friends', the original word may have been 'fiends.' Return

10. Or: And went to 'Bethl’em straightaway,' This blessed babe to find:
Or: 'The Son of God to find' (Bramley and Stainer, and Sylvester). Return

11. Or: 'And when they came to Bethlehem …' (Bramley and Stainer).
Or: 'Whereat' this infant lay
Or: 'where our dear Savior lay,'
Return

12. Or: His mother Mary kneeling 'down,' (Bramley and Stainer) Return

13. The seventh and ninth verses are a later addition. They do not appear in Sandys (1833), Sylvester (1861), Bramley & Stainer, First Series (1860s), Bullen (1885), or Rickert (1910). Ian Bradley, in The Penguin Book of Carols (London: Penguin, 1999), states that the ninth came from a broadside. Both are found in the Husk version. Husk only includes the first line of the chorus, above. Return

14. Or: This holy tide of Christmas, 'all other doth deface' (Bramley and Stainer) Return

Compare:  Come All You Worthy Gentlemen (Cecil Sharp, Folk Songs from Somerset)

The sheet music below is from Bramley and Stainer, Christmas Carols, New And Old, First Series. London: Novello & Co., no date, but likely in the 1860s.
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God_Rest_You_7a.gif (471114 bytes) God_Rest_You_7b.gif (417866 bytes)

Sheet Music from William Sandys, ed., Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern. London: Richard Beckley, 1833, pp. 102-103.

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William Sandys, Christmas-tide, Its History, Festivals an Carols, With Their Music
London: John Russell Smith, 1852

Sheet Music from Edward F. Rimbault, A Little Book of Christmas Carols. London: Cramer, Beale & Co., 201, Regent Street, No Date (circa 1846).

Ancient Version, as sung in the streets of London
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Ancient Version, as sung in Cornwall
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XML

Sheet Music from Rev. Richard R. Chope, Carols For Use In Church. London: William Clowes & Sons, 1894, Carol #10, First Tune; Traditional, Harmonies by Rev. W. D. V. Duncombe
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Sheet Music from Rev. Richard R. Chope, Carols For Use In Church. London: William Clowes & Sons, 1894, Carol #10, Second Tune; Altered, Harmonies by Mr. H. S. Irons
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Sheet Music from William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity. London: John Camden Hotten, 1868.
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XML

The sheet music below is by L. H. Redner from Charles L. Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New. Boston: The Parish Choir, 1918, Carol 509
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God_Rest_Ye_Merry_509.gif (171428 bytes)

The sheet music below is the first "traditional" setting, from Charles L. Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New, Carol 722
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God_Rest_Ye_Merry_722.gif (276496 bytes)

The sheet music below is the second "traditional" setting, from Charles L. Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New, Carol 723
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God_Rest_Ye_Merry_723a.gif (147299 bytes)

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First and Second Settings from Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, First Series. London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1913.
First Setting: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Second Setting: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Cecil J. Sharp, English Folk-Carols. London: Novello & Co., Ltd., 1911, pp. 13-6.
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Sheet Music from Richard R. Terry, Gilbert and Sandys' Christmas Carols. London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, Ltd., 1931.
SATB From Sandys (1833): MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Traditional Melody, According to Terry, Gilbert and Sandys' Christmas Carols.
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Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), pp. 22-23, "Sandys' Christmas Carols."

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The "Traditional" Arrangement, pp. 24-25.

Sheet Music from Ralph Dunstan, The Cornish Song Book (London: Reid Bros., Ltd., 1929), pp. 86-7.

Version 1, "The popular version of the Tune"
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Version 2, "Variant of the tune was formerly popular in Cornwall"
(From a Setting, Harmony and Melody, in a M.S., c. 1845)
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Manuscript from Janet Healtley Blunt (1859-1950) who collected in the West Adderbury, Oxfordshire region, although also received songs and lyrics from friends and fellow collectors in other locations. This manuscript is found in the archives of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, (Ref no. JHB/18/7).

Public Domain Recording:

Instrumental sheet music to this and 12 other carols may be downloaded from Sally DeFord Music, http://www.defordmusic.com/carolsforpiano.htm (site accessed September 30, 2006). An MP3 of this arrangement is also available at that page.

If you enjoy Classical Guitar as much as I do, check out "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Classical Guitarist James Sundquist at YouTube. This is a clip from the "Christmas in Prophecy Concert" at The Lion's Den, Church of the Nazarene, Paramus, New Jersey, from his album: An Anthology of Sacred Carols for Classical Guitar, on Eagle Masterworks Productions. CDs and MP3s can be ordered on Amazon.com.

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