The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Remember, O Thou Man

Version 1

Compare: Remember, O Thou Man - Version 2 (Shaw and Dearmer, 1913)
Remember, O Thou Man - Version 3 (Rickert, 1910)
Remember, O Thou Man - Version 4 (Bullen, 1885)
 Remember, Life Is Short (Chope, 1894)

Words: Thomas Ravenscroft, from “Melismata,” 1611

Music: Thomas Ravenscroft, 1611
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Source: William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833), p. 106.
Also found in William Sandys, Christmas-tide, Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music (London: John Russell Smith, 1852), Carol XVI, pp. 235-7.

1. Remember, O thou Man, 
O thou Man, O thou Man, 
Remember, O thou Man, 
	Thy time is spent. 
Remember, O thou Man, 
How thou camest to me then, 
And I did what I can. 
	Therefore repent. 

2. Remember Adam's fall, 
O thou Man, O thou Man, 
Remember Adam's fall 
	From Heaven to Hell. 
Remember Adam's fall, 
How we were condemned all 
To Hell perpetual, 
	There for to dwell. 

3. Remember God's goodness, 
O thou Man, O thou Man, 
Remember God's goodness 
	And promise made. 
Remember God's goodness, 
How his only Son he sent 
Our sins for to redress. 
	Be not afraid. 

4. The Angels all did sing, 
O thou Man, O thou Man, 
The Angels all did sing 
	On Sion hill. 
The Angels all did sing 
Praises to our Heavenly King, 
And peace to man living, 
	With right good will. 

5. The Shepherds amazed was, 
O thou Man, O thou Man, 
The Shepherds amazed was 
	To hear the Angels sing. 
The Shepherds amazed was 
How this should come to pass. 
That Christ our Messias 
	Should be our King. 

6. To Bethlehem did they go, 
O thou Man, O thou Man, 
To Bethlehem did they go 
	This thing to see. 
To Bethlehem did they go 
To see whether it was so, 
Whether Christ was born or no, 
	To set us free. 

7. As the Angels before did say, 
O thou Man, O thou Man, 
As the Angels before did say. 
	So it came to pass. 
As the Angels before did say. 
They found him wrapt in hay 
In a manger where he lay. 
	So poor he was. 

8. In Bethlehem was he born, 
O thou Man, O thou Man, 
In Bethlehem was he born 
	For mankind dear. 
In Bethlehem was he born 
For us that were forlorn. 
And therefore took no scorn 
	Our sins to bear. 

9. In a manger laid he was, 
O thou Man, O thou Man, 
In a manger laid he was 
	At this time present. 
In a manger laid he was. 
Between an ox and an ass, 
And all for our trespass, 
	Therefore repent. 

10. Give thanks to God always, 
O thou Man, O thou Man, 
Give thanks to God always 
	With hearts most jolly. 
Give thanks to God always 
Upon this blessed day. 
Let all men sing and say, 
	Holy, Holy. 

Sheet Music from Rev. Charles Lewis Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New (Boston: Parish Choir, 1916), Carol 705

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

See A Garritan Community Christmas for an MP3:
  Remember O Thou Man, Jack Cannon

Editor's Note:

According to Thomas Lyle, Ancient Ballads and Songs (London: Printed for L. Relfe, 1826), p. 58, "Thomas Ravenscroft, B.M. was an eminent English Musician and Publisher, who flourished betwixt the years of 1600 and 1635."

Also found in Edward Rimbault, A Little Book of Songs and Ballads (London: John Russell Smith, Soho Square, 1851), p. 79.

From Melismata, Musicall Phansies fitting the Court, Citie, and Countrey Humors. Printed by William Stansby, 4to, 1614; but much older than the date of the book, as a parody, of which the following is the first stanza, appeared in 1590 in Ane Compendious Booke of Godly and Spirituall Songs.

"Remember, man, remember, man,
That I thy saull from Sathan wan,
And hes done for thee what I can;
Thow art full deir to mee.
Is, was, nor sall bee none,
That may thee save, but I allone:
Onely, therefore, believe mee on,
And thow sall never die."

    [See: Remember Man, Remember Man, from the Edition of 1567.]

The original Carol may also be found, with some variations, in Cantus, Songs, and Fancies, printed by John Forbes at Aberdeen, in 1662; and in the Rev. Arthur Bedford's Excellency of Divine Musick, 1733.

It was Carols of this description that the old Elizabethan writers denominated "Suffering Ballads."

At page 82, Rimbault had this note to the last verse:

In the version of this Carol given in Mr. Sandys' Christmas Carols, a stanza occurs, before the last, which is not found in the copy from which we print. It is as follows:

In a manger laid he was,
O thou Man, O thou Man,
In a manger laid he was
At this time present.
In a manger laid he was.
Between an ox and an ass,
And all for our trespass,
Therefore repent.

[This is verse 9, above.]

Also found in Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861), pp. 99-103:

This Christmas Carol is the last of the "Country Pastimes," in "Melismata: Musicall Phansies fitting the Court, Citie, and Country Humours," edited by [Thomas] Ravenscroft, 4to, 1611. It is paraphrased in "Ane compendious book of Godly and Spirituall Songs ... with sundrie ... ballates changed out of prophaine Songs, &c,' printed by Andro Hart, in Edinburgh, 1621.

Remember, man, remember, man,
That I thy saull from Sathan wan,
And has done for thee what I can, &c.

Carols of this description, the writers of Elizabeth's reign denominated "Suffering Ballads."

Note: Hugh Keyte, an editor of The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) believes that "Joshua Sylvestre" is a pseudonym for a collaboration between William Sandys (1792-1874) and William Henry Husk (1814-1887). See Appendix 4.

Also found in William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity. London: John Camden Hotten, 1868:

This "Christmas carol" was printed, in 1611, in the curious musical work of Thomas Ravenscroft, entitled "Melismata. Mvsicall Phansies. Fitting the Covrt, Citie, and Covntrey Hvmovrs. To 3, 4 and 5 Voyces. To all delightfull, except to the Spitefull, To none offensiue, except to the Pensiue." It is there set to music in four parts. In 1665, 1669 and 1682 the carol with its tune only was given in the severl editions of a collection of "Song and Fancies, To severall Musicall Parts," which was printed by John Forbes at Aberdeen. Considerable attention was attracted to the latter work some forty years since by an idle assertion that the melody of the well-known song "God, sve the king" was derived from that of "Remember, O thou man." A paraphrase of the carol appeared in "Ane compendious Booke of Godly and Spirituall Songs, with sundrie Ballates changed out of prophaine Songes &c," which was printed by Andro Hart in Edinburgh in 1621. It commenses --

Remember, man, remember, man
That I thy saull from Satan wan,
And has done for thee what I can, &c.

The Elizabethian writers designated carols like the present, "Suffering Ballads."

Earthly Delights: Xmas Carols

This carol is of 16th century origin. The text given here comes from the 'Country Pastimes' section of [Thomas] Ravenscroft 1611 Melismata, and is there headed 'A Christmas Caroll'. It was still being sung more than 250 years later, Thomas Hardy referring to it as the 'ancient and time-worn hymn' in his 1872 Under the Greenwood Tree.

William Chappell, The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time. London: Chappell & Co., 1859, pp. 373-374.

This Christmas Carol is the last of the “Country Pastimes” in “Melismata: Musicall Phansies fitting the Court, Citie, and Countrey Humours,” edited by [Thomas] Ravenscroft, 4to., 1611. It is paraphrased in “ Ane compendious booke of Godly and Spirituall Songs. . with sundrie. . ballates changed out of prophaine Sanges,” &c., printed by Andro Hart, in Edinburgh, in 1621.

“Remember, man, remember, man,
That I thy saull from Sathan wan,
And hes done for thee what I can,
Thow art full deir to me,” &c.
    Scottish Poems of the Sixteenth Century, ii. 188, 1801.

From Melismata the carol was copied into Forbes’ Cantus, and taught in the Music School at Aberdeen. Some years ago, the latter work was sold for a comparatively high price at public auctions in London (about 10l.), and chiefly on the reputation of containing, in this carol, the original of God save the King. The report originated with Mr. Pinkerton, who asserted in his Recollections of Paris, ii. 4, that “the supposed national air is a mere transcript of a Scottish Anthem” contained in a collection printed in 1682. Forbes’ Cantus is comparatively useless to a musician, since it contains only the “cantus,” or treble voice part of English compositions, which were written, and should be, in three, four, or five parts. There are, also, a few ballad tunes, such as “Satan, my foe,” to Fortune, my foe; “Shepherd, saw thou not,” to Crimson Velvet, &c.; and, in the last edition, 1682, some Italian songs, and “new English Ayres,” in three parts complete. The two former editions were printed at Aberdeen, in 1662 and 1666.

Remember Adam’s fall, O thou man, &c.,
    Remember Adam’s fall, from heaven to hell;
Remember Adam’s fall, how we were condemned all
    In hell perpetual there for to dwell.

Remember God’s goodness, O thou man, &c.,
    Remember God’s goodness and his promise made;
Remember God’s goodness, how he sent his Son, doubtless,
    Our sins for to redress ;—Be not afraid.

The angels all did sing, O thou man, &c.,
    The angels all did sing upon the shepherd’s hill;
The angels all did sing praises to our heavenly King,
    And peace to man living, with a good will.

The shepherds amazed were, O thou man, &c.,
    The shepherds amazed were, to hear the angels sing;
The shepherds amazed were, how it should come to pass
    That Christ, our Messias, should be our King.

To Bethlem they did go, O thou man, &c.,
    To Bethlem they did go, the shepherds three;
To Bethlem they did go, to see wh’er it were so or no,
    Whether Christ were born or no, to set man free.

As the angels before did say, O thou man, &c.,
    As the angels before did say, so it came to pass;
As the angels before did say, they found a babe where it lay,
    In a manger, wrapt in hay, so poor he was.

In Bethlem he was born, O thou man, &c.,
    In Bethlem he was born for mankind’s sake;
In Bethlem he was born, for us that were forlorn,
    And therefore took no scorn our flesh to take.

Give thanks to God always, O thou man, &c.,
Give thanks to God always with heart most joyfully;
Give thanks to God alway, for this our happy day—
Let all men sing and say, Holy, holy.

A. F. Mitchell, ed., A Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood
and Sons, 1897), pp. 200-204.
A Reprint of "An Compendious Booke of Godly and Spirituall Songs." 1576, 1600, 1621. A re-setting of the original song, "Remember, man, remember, man":

 

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