The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Seven Virgins

For Christmas

Version 2
All Under The Leaves, The Leaves Of Life
Compare: All Under the Leaves

Words and Music: English Traditional
A copy of the music is printed in the Oxford Book of Carols (1828, 1964), #43, p. 82

Source: Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861)

1. All under the leaves, and the leaves of life,
I met with virgins seven,
And one of them was Mary mild,
Our Lord's mother of heaven.

2. "O what are you seeking, you seven fair maids,
All under the leaves of life,
Come tell, come tell, what seek you,
All under the leaves of life?"

3. "We're seeking for no leaves, Thomas,
But for a friend of thine,
We're seeking for sweet Jesus Christ,
To be our guide and thine."1

4. "Go down, go down to yonder town,
And sit in the gallery,
And there you'll see sweet Jesus Christ,
Nailed to a big yew tree."

5. So down they went to yonder town,
As fast as foot could fall,
And many a grievous bitter tear,2
From the virgins' eyes3 did fall.

6. "O peace, mother, O peace, mother,
Your weeping doth me grieve,
I must suffer this," he said,
"For Adam and for Eve."4

7. "O mother, take you John Evangelist,
And for to be your son,5
And he will comfort you sometimes,
Mother, as I have done."

8. "O come, thou John Evangelist,
Thou'rt welcome unto me,
But more welcome my own dear Son,
Whom I nursed on my knee."

9. Then he laid his head on his right shoulder,
Seeing death it struck him nigh —
"The Holy Ghost be with your soul,
I die, mother dear, I die."

10. O the rose, the gentle rose,
And the fennel that grows so green,6
God give us grace, in every place,
To pray for our kind and queen.7

11. Furthermore for our enemies all
Our prayers they should be strong,8
Amen, good Lord; your Charity
Is the ending of my song.

These Footnotes are the differences between the version in Sylvester and A Good Christmas Box:

1. Or: "To be our heavenly guide." Return.

2. Or: "And many a bitter and grievous tear," Return.

3. Or: "ladies' eyes." Return.

4. A Good Christmas Box inserts a verse at this point:

Oh how can I my weeping leave,
Or my sorrows undergo,
Whilst I do see my own son die,
When Sons I have no more? Return.

5. Or: "To be your favorite son." Return.

6. Or: "that grows in the Spring." Return.

7. Or: "To pray for Victoria our Queen." Return.

8. Or: "they are so strong." Return.

Sheet Music and notes from Ella M. Leather, Lucy E. Broadwood, A. G. Gilchrist, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frances Tolmie and Cecil J. Sharp, eds., "Carols from Herefordshire," Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. 4, No. 14 (June, 1910), pp. 49-51.

JFSS-IV-14-49.gif (33249 bytes) JFSS-IV-14-50.gif (31942 bytes) JFSS-IV-14-51.gif (37065 bytes)

Also found in G. Walters, A Good Christmas Box (Dudley: G. Walters, 1847, Reprinted by Michael Raven, 2007), p. 54. Evidently, neither "Sylvester" nor Husk knew of A Good Christmas Box. There is no reference to the tune in the reprinted volume.

Sylvester's Note:

This is another carol which has hitherto eluded the search of all collectors of such religious antiquities. The legend is extremely ancient. The line toward the end which alludes to "our king and queen" is evidently a modern interpolation. The metre, occasionally faulty, is here given just as it occurs on the original old Birmingham broadside.

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

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

This carol appeared for the first time in a publication in "A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern," [by Joshua Sylvester] published in 1860, [sic] the editor of which says, "This is another carol which has hitherto eluded the search of all collectors of such religious antiquities. The legend is extremely ancient. The line toward the end which alludes to "our king and queen" is evidently a modern interpolation. The metre, occasionally faulty, is here given just as it occurs on the original old Birmingham broadside."

    As noted above, first appearance of the lyrics was in A Good Christmas Box (1847). [Ed.]

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 145 under the title “All under the Leaves, and the Leaves of Life.” At verse 3, Miss Rickert asks “doubting Thomas?” She also notes that “This is a traditional carol, which in spirit relates itself to the mystery plays of the Passion; but it has nothing to do with Christmas.”

Editor's Notes:

See, generally, Corpus Christi Day and the Performance of Mysteries, from William Hone, The Every Day Book, 2 Vols. London: William Tegg, 1825, 1827 (Volume 1, June 2).

The melody and a version of the text were included in Twelve Traditional Carols from Herefordshire, Emma Leather and R. Vaughan Williams (Stainer and Bell, 1920).

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