The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Now Christmas Time Is Coming On

Alternate Title: Christmas Cheer

Words and Music: Unknown
Published in "Poor Robin's Almanack," 1723.

Source: William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868)

Now Christmas time is coming on,
And, painful Harvest past and gone;
Now reap the fruit of all your care
With Christmas pies and good strong beer,
Sirlions of beer and hams of bacon,
With hollow meats, [1] roast goose and capon;
With good strong liquor; but take care
To let the poor come in for share.

Now hey for Christmas, let the spits go round,
Let cauldrons boil and pies i' th' oven be found.
May they who now deny themselves good cheer,
Against their wills keep strict Lent all the year.

1. Poultry, rabbits, &c. Return

Husk's Note:

These lines appeared in "Poor Robin's Almanack" for 1723. In the observations in the almanack on the mouth of December, the following remarks occur, which, as showing some of the customs of the period, are not undeserving of preservation. The writer, it will be observed, has not omitted the customary growl at the degeneracy of the age, although he has couched it under the milder form of the expression of a hope.

"Now comes on old merry plentiful Christmas. The husbandman lays his great Log behind the fire, and with a few of his neighbours over a good fire, taps his Christmas beer, cuts his Christmas cheese, and sets forward for a merry Christmas. The Landlord (for we hope there are yet some generous ones left) invites his Tenants and Labourers, and with a good Sirloin of Roast Beef, and a few pitchers of nappy ale or beer, he wisheth them all a merry Christmas. The beggar begs his bread, sells some of it for money to buy drink, and without fear of being arrested. or call'd upon for parish duties, has as merry a Christmas as any of them all."

Authorship of the poem is credited to William Winstanley (c.16281698), a poet and diarist, who lived in England following the English Civil Wars, according to Alison Barnes in her book, William Winstanley: The Man Who Saved Christmas. For more details concerning this fellow and this book, please see the article in the Daily Mail by Tony Rennell, "William Winstanley: The man who saved Christmas from Cromwell's misery" (19 December 2007)
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-503572/William-Winstanley-The-man-saved-Christmas-Cromwells-misery.html

According to the Wikipedia article, it was Mr. Winstanley who was the "Poor Robin" that issued the famous line of almanacs from the 1660s onwards. See: Wikipedia contributors. "William Winstanley." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 10 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Sep. 2015; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Winstanley.

It should be noted, however, that the poem was published in 1723, while Mr. Winstanley passed away in 1698. Of course, the 1723 edition may have been quoting from his voluminous papers or an earlier edition of "Poor Robin's Almanack."

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