The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Past Three A Clock

The refrain, Past three a clock, is old, but the rest of the Carol is newly composed by George Ratcliffe Woodward. The tune (London Waits, from W. Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time, p. 550) is here harmonized by Charles Wood.

Source: Charles Wood and George Ratcliffe Woodward, The Cambridge Carol-Book, Being Fifty-Two Songs For Christmas, Easter, And Other Seasons (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1924), #25.

Past three a clock,
And a cold frosty morning,
Past three a clock;
Good morrow, masters all!

1. Born is a Baby,
Gentle as may be,
Son of the eternal
Father supernal.

Refrain.
Past three a clock,
And a cold frosty morning,
Past three a clock;
Good morrow, masters all!

2. Seraph quire singeth,
Angel bell ringeth;
Hark how they rime it,
Time it and chime it. Refrain.

3. Mid earth rejoices
Hearing such voices
e'ertofore so well
Carolling Nowell. Refrain.

4. Hinds o'er the pearly,
Dewy lawn early
Seek the high Stranger
Laid in the manger. Refrain.

5. Cheese from the dairy
Bring they for Mary
And, not for money,
Butter and honey. Refrain.

6. Light out of star-land
Leadeth from far land
Princes, to meet him,
Worship and greet him. Refrain.

7. Myrrh from full coffer,
Incense they offer;
Nor is the golden
Nugget withholden. Refrain.

8. Thus they: I pray you,
Up, sirs, nor stay you
Till ye confess him
Likewise and bless him. Refrain.

Sheet Music

Earthly Delights: Xmas Carols

The refrain and the tune go back to renaissance times and both were possibly traditional ones used by the waits. Both are found in 17th century sources. The words of the refrain were used, for example, in the 1665 edition of John Playford's Dancing Master, the 3 rd edition, and were quoted or used in literature and song many times in the 18th and 19th century. A volume of Old English Ditties published in 1881 included a non-Christmas song with this refrain complemented by verses composed by John Oxenford. The Christmas verses given here and now most commonly associated with the refrain and the melody were written by George Ratcliff Woodward, who also wrote the words to 'Ding, dong, merrily on high, for The Cambridge Carol Book of 1924, which he co-edited.

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