The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

I Am Here, Syre Christmasse

In Die Nativitatis

For Christmas

Words and Music: Rev. Richard Smart (or Smerte), Rector (1435-1477) of Plymtree, Devon, and vicar-choral at Exeter Cathedral (1428-ca. 1466). The carol was likely composed ca. 1461-1477. He was also the author of one of the Boar's Head carols (“The borys hede that we bryng here”), among several other carols in Ritson's Manuscript (British Library, MS. Addit. 5665, f.8.v. ff).

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), p. 224.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell
Who ys there that syngith so nowell, nowell?

1. I am here, syre cristsmasse;
Well come, my lord srs cristsmasse,
Welcome to all vs all both more and lasse,
                            Com ner, nowell.

2. Dievs wous garde, brewe srs, tydÿgs y zow bryng,
A mayde hath born a chylde full zong,
The weche causeth zew for to synge,
                            Nowell.

3. Criste is now born of a pure mayde,
In an oxe stalle he ys layde,
Wher'for syng we all atte abrayde,
                            Nowell.

4. Bevvex bien par tuttle la company,
Make gode chere and be ryght mery,
And syng wt vs now ioyfully,

                            Nowell.

Sheet Music from Sir Richard Runciman Terry, A Medieval Carol Book: The Melodies Chiefly from MMS. in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1932), Carol #32, pp. 57-59
(British Library, Additional MSS. 5665.)

 AMCB70.jpg (700683 bytes) AMCB71.jpg (639689 bytes) AMCB72.jpg (660474 bytes)

Sheet Music from John Stafford Smith, Musica Antiqua, Vol. I of II. (London: Preston, 97, Strand, 1812), p. 26. "Another In die Nativitatis."

I_Am_Here_Sir_Christmas-Smith-Mus_Ant-I-26.jpg (87429 bytes)

Sandys' Note:

This [is] from Addit. MSS. 5665. (formerly in Ritson's possession,) being a collection of church services, hymns, carols and songs in score, made (as it supposed) in the time of Henry VIII [1491-1547, reign 1509-1547].

This [is] also printed in Ritson's Ancient Songs. The music of them, with some others, is published in Mr. Stafford Smith's "Music Antiqua."

Editor's Note:

Mr. Ritson's French differs from Mr. Sandys' in the second and fourth verses:

    2. Deu vous garde, bewe syre.

    4. Bevux bien, par tuttle la company

This very old carol is one of a number of carols, mummers' plays, or texts featuring a personification of Christmas, and, in this one, we have a ceremony welcoming “Sir Christmas” into the season. For the notes on this carol, please see Sir Christmas.

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