The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O You Merry, Merry Souls

Alternate Title: Christmas Is A Coming

Words and Music: Unknown
From "Round About Our Coal Fire," 1734

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

1. O you merry, merry souls,
Christmas is a coming;
We shall have flowing bowls,
Dancing, piping, drumming.

2. Delicate minced pies,
To feast every virgin,
Capon and goose likewise,
Brawn, and a disk of sturgeon.

3. Then for your Christmas-box
Sweet plum cakes and money,
Delicate Holland smocks,
Kisses sweet as honey.

4. Hey for the Christmas ball,
Where we shall be jolly;
Coupling short and tall,
Kate, Dick, Ralph, and Molly.

5. Then to the hop we'll go,
Where we'll jig and caper
"Cuckholds all a-row;"
Will shall pay the scraper.

6. Hodge shall dance with Prue,
Keeping time with kisses;
We'll have a jovial crew
Of sweet smirking misses.

Husk's Note:

This song is from a very curious and uncommon little book, entitled "Round About our Coal Fire, or Christmas Entertainments;" which treats not only of "the Mirth and Jollity of the Christmas Holidays; viz: Christmas gambols, Eating, Drinking, Kissing, and other Diversions;" but of a variety of other things, such as Hobgoblins, Ghosts, Witches, Fairies, Jack the Giant-killer, and (that never-ceasing complaint) the Decay of Hospitality. The fourth edition of this work (the earliest known) appeared in 1734. The song here given serves as a "Prologue" to the book.

The tune named in the last verse is that of a country dance which enjoyed a lengthened career of popularity. That amusing gossip, Pepys, mentions it in his account of a Court ball at which he was present on New Year's Eve, 1662. "Mr. Povy and I to White Hall; he taking me thither on purpose to carry me into the ball this night before the King (Charles II). He brought me first to the Duke's chamber, where I saw him and the Duchesse at supper; and thence into the room where the ball was to be, crammed with fine ladies, the greatest of the Court. By and by, comes the King and Queene, the Duke and Duchesse, and all the great ones; and after seating themselves, the King take out the Duchesse of York; and the Duke the Duchesse of Buckingham; the Duke of Monmouth my Lady Castlemaine; and so other lords other ladies; and they danced the Brantle (Braule). After that, the King led a lady a single Coranto; and then the rest of the lords, one after another, other ladies: very noble it was, and great pleasure to see. Then to country dances; the King leading the first, which he called for; which was, says he, 'Cuckholds all awry," the old dance of England." The tune may be seen in Mr. Chappell's excellent work, "Popular Music of the Olden Time."

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 168-9, citing Round about our Coal Fire, 1740. Bullen adds the following note:

"These lively verses, with some additions and alterations, are also found in an undated collection of songs entitled “The Hop Garland.” — Last year the enterprising publishers, Messrs. Field & Tuer, issued a reprint of “Round about the Coal Fire.”

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