The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Moon Shines Bright

For Christmas

Version 2, From Warwickshire

Words and Music: English Traditional Sung by Mrs. Gentie Phillips, a native of Tysoe, Warwickshire

Compare: The Moon Shines Bright - Version 1
The Moon Shines Bright - Version 3

See: Notes On The Carol

Source: Cecil J. Sharp, English Folk-Carols (London: Novello & Co., Ltd., 1911), pp. 11-12.

1. The moon shines bright and the stars give a light
A little before it is day;
Our Lord our God he called on us
And bids us awake and pray.

2. Awake! O awake! good people all,
Awake! and you shall hear,
Our Lord our God He suffered on the cross
For us whom He loved so dear.

3. The fields were green, as green could be,
When we from His glory fell;
And we His children then were brought
To death and near to hell.

4. The life of a man it is but a span,
It's like a mourning flower;
We're here to day, to-morrow we are gone
We are dead all in one hour.

5. O teach them well your children, dear man,
While you have got them here;
It will be better for your soul, dear man,
When your corpse lies on the bier.

6. To-day you may be living, dear man,
With a many thousand pound;
To-morrow you may be dead, dear man,
And your corpse lie underground.

7. With the green turf at your head, dear man,
And another at your feet;
Your good deeds and your bad, dear man,
Will all together meet.

8. My song it is done and I must be gone,
No longer can I stay here.
God bless you all, both great and small,
And send you a happy New Year.1

Note from Broadwood:

1. Some versions have:

Your good deeds and your evil
Will all together meet.
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Sheet Music From Sharp, English Folk Carols (1911)
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Sheet Music From Cecil J. Sharp, Folk-Song Carols (London: Novello and Company, Ltd., 1913), No. 1176, pp. 6-7. Novello's School Songs, Book #245, edited by W. G. McNaught.

moon_shines_bright-01-folk_song_carols-06-1913.jpg (86503 bytes) moon_shines_bright-02-folk_song_carols-07-1913.jpg (74440 bytes)

Notes from Sharp, pp. 62-3.

Sung by Mrs. Gentie Phillips, a native of Tysoe, Warwickshire, now living at Birmingham.

This carol and The Sinner's Redemption (No. 8), together with many others were sung every Christmas by the Tysoe carol singers.

With the exception of the 3rd stanza the words given in the text are those which Mrs. Phillips and her sister, Mrs. Handy, sang to me. The 3rd stanza, which Mrs. Phillips could only partially remember, is from a version noted several years ago at East Harptree, Somerset. In another variant which I collected in Kent this stanza runs as follows

In yonder garden green doth grow,
As green as any leek
Our Lord our God He waters us
With His heavenly dew so sweet.

Other versions with tunes are printed in The Folk-Song Society’s Journal, Sussex Songs, English County Songs, Shropshire Folk-Lore, Songs of the West, and Carols New and Old (Bramley and Stainer) ; with words only, in Sandys’s Christmas Carols, etc., and on broadsides by Evans, Thompson and others.

Also found in Lucy E. Broadwood, ed., English Traditional Songs and Carols. London: Boosey & Co., 1908, in six verses, which are substantially the same as above. She has one verse which is markedly different:

3. So dear, so dear Christ lovèd us,
And for our sins got slain;
We’ll all leave off our wicked, wicked way,
And turn to the Lord again.

Notes from Broadwood:

Sung by Gypsies of the name of Goby, well known in Sussex & Surrey.

Versions of this popular traditional carol, tunes and words widely differing, are in nearly every carol-book or collection of country songs, from Sandys’ Christmas Carols (1833) onwards; amongst others, in C. Burne’s Shropshire Folk-Lore, English County Songs, Sussex Songs, Songs of the West, Rimbault’s Carols, Bramley and Stainer’s Carols, and Journal of the Folk Song Society, Nos. 4 and 7. It is sung, with appropriate adaptations, either at Christmas time or on May Day. Hone states, in 1823, that it was one of the carols still annually printed on ballad-sheets. The sombre variant of words here given seems to be especially liked by gypsies (see the singularly interesting versions in Shropshire Folk-Lore, and Notes and Queries, 8th series, ii., Dec. 24, 1892). Compare the carols following in this collection [Hampshire Mummers Christmas Carol, Sussex Mummers' Christmas Carol, Bedfordshire May Day Carol].

See: The 89 carols mentioned by Hone: Christmas Carols now annually Printed, and The Moon Shines Bright, a May-Day version from Broadwood and Fuller Maitland, English Country Songs (1893).

Sheet Music from Broadwood

William Chappell, The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time. London: Chappell & Co., 1859.

The May-day, or Mayers’ Song, which is printed by Hone, in his Every Day Book (i. 569), “as sung at Hitchin, in Hertfordshire,” is also to this tune [See: May Day At Hitchin]. It is semi-religious medley,—a puritanical May-song (“of great antiquity,” says Hone), and begins thus :—

“Remember us poor Mayers all,
    And thus we do begin,
To lead our lives in righteousness,
    Or else we die in sin.
We have been rambling all the night,
    And almost all the day,
And now, returned back again,
    We have brought you a branch of May.”

The carol is sometimes sung in a major key, and sometimes in a minor; besides which difference, scarcely any two copies agree in the second part.

See generally Christmas Carols - William Chappell.

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