The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

In Bethlehem City

"Another Carrol for Christmas-day"

For Christmas

Words English Traditional

Music: "To the Tune of, "'Why weep ye, &c.'"
The tune is now unknown.

Source: New Carolls for this Merry Time of Christmas (London, 1661).

See: In Bethlehem City - Notes

Burden
Rejoice and be merry, set sorrow aside,
Christ Jesus our Saviour, was born at this tide:

1. In Bethlehem City, in Jury it was,
For Joseph and Mary together did pass:

Chorus:
And therefore be merry, set sorrow aside,
Christ Jesus our Saviour, was born at this Tide.

2. There to be taxed, with many one mo[re],
For Cæsar commanded the same should be so.
    And, &c.

3. And when they were entered the City so fair,
People from all parts, to be taxed were there.
    And, &c.

4. When Joseph and Mary, whose substance was small,
Could not have in the Inn no lodging at all:
    And, &c.

5. Unless in the Stable they would abide,
They might have no other, even at that tide.
    And, &c.

6. Their Lodging so simple, they took in no scorn,
And before the next morning our Saviour was born
    And, &c.

7. When Mary had swaddled her young Son so sweet,
Even in an Ox=Manger, she laid him to sleep.
    And, &c.

8. The King of all Glory to the world being brought,
Small store of fine Clothing, was there to be sought:
    And, &c.

9. Then God sent an Angel from heaven so high,
To certain poor Shepherds, in fields that did lye:
    And, &c.

10. And bid them no longer, in sorrow to stay,
Because that their Saviour was born on that day;
    And, &c.

11. And presently after the shepherds did spy
A number of Angels appear in the Sky;
    And, &c.

12 Which joyfully talked, and sweetly did sing,
To God be all Glory, our Heavenly King;
    And, &c.

13. Now certain wise Princes thought it not unmeet,
To lay their rich Offerings at our Saviours feet;
    And, &c.

Notes:

This is the oldest printed version that we know of for this family of carols, which also includes "A Virgin Unspotted," "A Virgin Most Pure," and "Rejoyce and Be Merry."

There are four Broadside carols currently classified as separate carols, “Rejoice and Be Merry,” with their own Roud number, V9595. Of these, three should properly be considered as members of the “In Bethlehem City” family of carols. The reason for this is that they have substantially the same structure as this carol. The four broadsides are:

 

Johnson Ballads 1365-21096.jpg (1226210 bytes)1. Johnson Ballads 1365; Title: Three New Christmas Carols; Printed and Sold in Aldermary Church Yard, London. The same as “In Bethlehem City-1661” except that it omits two verses, 8 & 12. This reduces the number of verses to 11.

Harding_B_11_3920-04848.jpg (251952 bytes)2. Harding B 11(3920); Title: Two New Christmas Carols; Wilkins, Printer, Derby. The same as “In Bethlehem City-1661” except that it has a four-line chorus which incorporates verse 2. It also omits verses 8 & 12. This reduces the number of verses to ten.

Douce adds. 137(49)-14977.jpg (396365 bytes)3. Douce adds. 137(49); C. Croshaw, Printer, Pavement, York. The same as “In Bethlehem City-1661” except that it has a four-line chorus which incorporates verse 2. It also omits verses 5, 8 & 12. This reduces the number of verses to nine.
Douce adds. 137(45)-14973.jpg (980182 bytes)The fourth “Rejoice and Be Merry” broadside, Douce adds. 137(45), should remain a separate carol due to its structure of four-line chorus, and its four-line verses, except for the sixth, which is two lines. It's web page is Rejoice And Be Merry - Douce Adds 137(45).

In the Johnson Ballads 1365 broadside, the first eight lines are printed without any break, followed by a four-line chorus, and then a number of four-line verses, as follows:

Rejoice and be merry,
     set sorrow aside,
Christ Jesus our Saviour,
     Was born at this tide:
In Bethlehem City,
     in Jury it was,
For Joseph and Mary
     together did pass:

Chorus:
And therefore be merry,
     Set sorrow aside,
Christ Jesus our Saviour,
     Was born at this Tide.

2. There to be taxed,
     with many one mo[re],
For Cæsar commanded
     the same should be so.
        And therefore, &c.

&c., &c., &c.

Because of this format, such carols were typically titled "Rejoice and be merry." However, as performed, the formatting that we see at the top of the page is more accurate. The traditional way of performing these carols was to first sing the "Burden" (the chorus or refrain), then the first verse, then the "Burden" again, and then followed by verses and the Burden until the end of the song. When we understand this structure, it becomes clear that the title should be "In Bethlehem City," rather than "Rejoice and be merry."

This same reformatting of broadsides continues in two of the other three broadsides found at Ballads On-line at the Bodleian Library, Douce Adds. 137(49) and Harding B 11(3920).

The only broadside that has a different structure is Douce Adds 137(45). Here, the carol has been transformed into one that has four-line stanzas and a four-line chorus:

1. Rejoice and be merry, set sorrow aside,
Christ Jesus our Saviour was born on this tide,
In Bethlehem city in Jewry it was
Where Joseph and Mary together did pass.

Chorus:
And therefore be merry, set sorrow aside,
Christ Jesus our Saviour was born on this tide,
And there to be tax'd with many others did go,
For Caesar Augustus had ordered it so.

2. And when they had enter'd the city so fair,
People from all parts to be taxe'd were there.
For Joseph & Mary whose substance was small
Could not at an inn have any lodging at all.

The only exception is the sixth stanza, which betrays its original structure:

6. Now certain wise prices thought it no unmeet,
To lay their rich offerings at our Saviour's feet.

As such, this is the only carol that should properly be titled "Rejoice And Be Merry."

Finally, Johnson Ballads 1365 is one of those broadsides that have the note "Printed and Sold in Aldermary Church Yard, London." Concerning these carols, WorldCat has noted on several of its pages that

Research by David Stoker suggests a general publication date range spanning from the 1770s to the 1780s for chapbooks bearing the "Aldermary Churchyard" and "Aldermary Churchyard, Bow Lane" imprints, with those bearing the street address "No. 4 Aldermary Churchyard" probably printed sometime after the mid 1770s.

St Mary Aldermary is an Anglican church in Bow Lane in the City of London. Of medieval origin, it was rebuilt in 1510 and again in 1666 by Sir Christopher Wren in a Gothic style after it was badly damaged in the Great Fire of London. It currently hosts the Host Cafe, and a small food market, on weekdays.

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