The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Sussex Mummers' Christmas Carol

Words and Music: English Traditional
See also:
The Sussex Mummers Carol
With a similar title only: On Christmas Night - The Sussex Carol - Version 1

Source: Lucy E. Broadwood, ed., English Traditional Songs and Carols. London: Boosey & Co., 1908.

1. When righteous Joseph wedded was
Unto a virtuous [virgin] maid
A glorious angel from Heaven came
Unto that virtuous [virgin] maid.

2. O mortal man, remember well
When Christ our Lord was born;
He was crucified betwixt two thieves,
And crowned with the thorn.

3. O mortal man, remember well
When Christ died on the rood,
‘Twas for our sins and wicked ways
Christ shed His precious blood.

4. O mortal man, remember well
When Christ was wrapped in clay,
He was taken to a sepulchre
Where no man ever lay.

5. God bless the mistress of this house
With gold all [chain] round her breast;
Where e’er her body sleeps or wakes,1
Lord, send her soul to rest.

6. God bless the master of this house
With happiness beside;
Where e’er his body rides or walks
Lord Jesus be his guide.

7. God bless your house, your children too,
Your cattle and your store;
The Lord increase you day by day,
And send [give] you more and more.

Note:

1. Wherever she sleeps or where she weeps” in another version. Return

Sheet Music

Notes from Broadwood:

Sung by Mummers from the neighbourhood of Horsham about 1878 —1881.

This very beautiful carol was sung several years in succession by Christmas Mummers, also called in Sussex “Tipteers” or “Tipteerers,” a name still unexplained in our dialect dictionaries. It was noted in 1880 and 1881, after which the Mummers ceased to act in the neighbourhood of Horsham. They clustered together, wooden swords in hand, at the close of their play “St. George and the Turk,” and sang, wholly unconscious of the contrast between the solemnity of the carol and the grotesqueness of their appearance, for they wore dresses of coloured calico, and old “chimney-pot” hats, heavily trimmed with shreds of ribbon, gaudy paper fringes and odd ornaments.

Two actors in 1881 provided a few verses in very corrupted form. These were patched together by the present editor for the sake of including the carol in Sussex Songs. Fortunately, an appeal in the West Sussex Gazette in 1904 was answered by five village correspondents, who sent versions varying interestingly in detail, but agreeing in the main. From the seven copies this version was selected, as needing only very trifling emendations, which have been made in every case with the help of the other versions. In only one copy is the word “rood rightly preserved to rhyme with “blood”; in other cases the modern word “cross” has been substituted. Three versions have a verse in which the angel addresses the Virgin. In one copy the master of the house is described as having “a gold chain round his waist.” Similar words to a different tune have lately been noted from Hampshire Mummers. It is worth noting that the surname of the two actors in Sussex who first supplied fragments of the carol words was “Hampshire.” The carol is sometimes sung in Sussex to the tune “Our ship she lies in harbour” (see p. 58 of this collection. For variants and further notes see Journal of the Folk Song Society, Vol. ii., No. 7, p. 128).

Singers who wish for a fuller accompaniment with fewer verses may have the beautiful arrangement by C. A. Lidgey, called “The Mummers’ Carol” (Boosey & Co.).

Editor's Note:

Compare: The Sussex Mummers Carol.

Broadwood noted that the first verse may be omitted when fewer verses are desired. Especially in that case, compare: Remember, O Thou Man.

See also plays concerning St. George from Sandys:

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