Also "The St. Day Carol"
Words and Music: Traditional English
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF
See notes under The Holly And The Ivy.
1 Now the holly bears a berry as white as the milk,
And Mary bore Jesus, all wrapped up in silk:
And Mary bore Jesus our Saviour for to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly.
And the first tree in the greenwood, it was the holly!
2. Now the holly bears a berry as green as the grass,
And Mary bore Jesus, who died on the cross:
3. Now the holly bears a berry as black as the coal,
And Mary bore Jesus, who died for us all:
4. Now the holly bears a berry, as blood is it red,
Then trust we our Saviour, who rose from the dead:
Sheet Music from Ralph Dunstan, The Cornish Song Book (London: Reid Bros., Ltd., 1929), p. 123.
Dr. Dunstan notes: "Sung to Mr. W. D. Watson by Thomas Beard (aged 50-60) and communicated by Rev. G. H. Doble, M.A."
Another sources gives only the following for the refrain:
And Mary bore Jesus, our Saviour to be,
And the first tree in the greenwood was the holly.
This carol, which celebrates the birth of Christ, is similar to The Holly And The Ivy, in which the holly is used as a symbol of Christ.
Earthly Delights: Xmas Carols
This carol was so named because the melody and the first 3 verses were first transcribed in the 19th century from the singing of a villager in St. Day (also Sans Day, or St. They - named after a Breton saint venerated in Cornwall) in the parish of Gwennap, Cornwall. A 4 stanza version in Cornish was subsequently published ('Ma gron war'n gelinen') and the fourth stanza of this version was soon translated and added to the first 3.
Pastor Peter Prange also pointed out that the village of St. Day in Cornwall is named after the saint.
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