The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Hay Zule now sing and mak myrth

Source: John Wedderburn, A Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs Commonly Known as 'The Gude and Godlie Ballatis.' Reprinted from the Edition of 1567, A. F. Mitchell, ed. (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1897), p. 69-70.

HAY Zule [Zule] now sing and mak myrth,
Sen Christ this day to vs is borne:
For had not bene that blissit byrth,
Mankynde alwyse had bene forlorne.

All men war born in sinfulnes,
Condampnit to Eternall deide.
Except Christ, that in rychteousnes
Was onlie borne for our remeid.

And he, geue we beleue, hes coste
His innocens for our trespas.
Had nocht bene Christ we had bene loste,
O blissit birth that euer was!

F I N I S.


The editor of this volume, A. F. Mitchell, had this note concerning this song at pp. 254-255:

Pp. 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 77, 79, 82, 83.—The "Ballatis" and "Carrells" on these pages I have not, save in two or three instances, succeeded in tracing to German or Danish sources; but I am not yet quite without hope that some younger and more patient investigator may be able to trace several more of them. They evidently contain a second cycle of Christmas and Easter hymns. Several of the former seem to me to bear affinity to the stanza and general contents of the hymns of the Bohemian Weisse and Horn on the birth of Christ, as "We suld into remembrance," "The Grace of God appeiris now," and especially " Now lat vs sing with joy and myrth." The carol " Hay Zule [Zule],1 now sing and mak myrth," changed in the three later editions of the book into " Hay, let us sing and mak greit myrth," has considerable resemblance to a hymn in the Leipsig 'Psalmen und Geistliche Lieder' of 1537, though not exactly in the same stanza:—

"Lobt Gott O lieben Christen
Singet ihm mit Psalmisten
     ein new fr
öhlich lied;
Macht Gott mitt uns
     einen ewigen fried.

Der Son Gottes ist nun kommen
Hat unser fleisch angenommen
Ist hie erschienen
Uns zu vers
und ewige clarbeit zu verdienen.

Er ist kommen uns zu hailen
und sein gut mit uns zu thailen,
Uns zu entbinden
Von allen stinden
Wie uns sein Engel fr
öhlich verkunden."

Ritson (vol. i. p. 140) gives a Christmas carol with the title and refrain, "Wolcum Yol, wolcum Yol." In Stationers' Hall Register, under the years 1562-63, is the following entry: " Christenmas Carrols auctorysshed by my Lord of London," f. 86b.

"Of thingis twa, I pray thé, Lord," is founded on Agur's prayer in Proverbs, ch. xxx. vv. 7, 8, 9, and bears considerable resemblance to vv. 1, 3, 4, 5 of a German hymn also founded on these verses, and beginning, "Zwey ding, O Herr, ich bitt von dir," which is No. 466 in Wackernagel's 'Kirchenlied' of 1841; but unless that hymn can be traced considerably farther back than he has done, it must be regarded as posterior to the Scotch.

"Quha can discriue or put in write," "Gif ze haif rissin from deide agane," and " Quha suld my mellodie amend," may possibly be original—at least several poems in that five-lined stanza are found in other Scottish poets of that time. (See religious poems in Bannatyne MS.)

The carol on the conception of Christ, " Lat vs reioyis and sing," is probably modelled on some old secular " ballate." "La, la, la," is the refrain of one of the ballads given by Ritson. Line 1, "Lat vs," &c., so read C. and D. as well as A., but B. has Let.

Footnote 1. The second Zule is found in the " Tabill" of contents, and is needed to complete the number of feet in the line.

Key to Notes:

The Letters, A, B, C, and D, refer to editions of the main work, A Compendious Book, as follows:

A. 1567
B. 1578
C. 1600
D. 1621

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