For Christmas Eve, For Christmas
Also Thys Ender Night and This Endrys Night
Words and Music: 15th Century England
The earliest manuscript containing the song comes from c. 1475
The source was not identified, but is closest to that from Ms. Eng. Poet. e. 1.
See: Thys endris nyghth - Thomas Wright (1847)
This endris1 night I saw a sight,
A star as bright as day,
And ev'r among, a maiden sung,
"Lully, bye bye, lullay."
1. This lovely lady sat and sang,
And to her child did say,
"My son, my brother, father dear,
Why liest thou thus in hay?"
2. "My sweetest bird, 'tis thus required,
Though I be king veray,2
But nevertheless I will not cease
To sing 'Bye bye, lullay.'"
3. The child then spake in his talking,
And to his mother did say,
"Yea, I am known as heaven-king
In crib though I be laid.
5. "Now, sweet son, since thou art a king,
Why art thou laid in stall?
Why dost not order thy bedding
In some great kinges hall?
6. "Methinks5 'tis right that king or
Should lie in good array.
And then among, it were no wrong
To sing 'Bye bye, lullay.'"
7. "Mary mother, I am thy Child,
Though I be laid in stall;
For lords and dukes shall worship Me,
And so shall kingès all.
8. "Ye shall well see that kingès three
Shall come on this twelfth day.
For this behest give Me thy breast
And sing, By by, lullay."
9. "Now tell, sweet Son, I Thee do pray,
Thou art my Love and Dear—
How should I keep Thee to Thy pay6,
And make Thee glad of cheer?
10. "For all Thy will I would fulfill—
Thou knowest well, in fay7;
And for all this I will Thee kiss,
And sing, By by, lullay."
11. "My dear mother, when time it be,
Take thou Me up on loft,
And set Me then upon thy knee,
And handle me full soft.
12. "And in thy arm thou hold Me warm,
And keep Me night and day,
And if I weep, and may not sleep,
Thou sing, By by, lullay."
14. "That child or man, who will or can
Be merry on my day,
To bliss Thou bring—and I shall sing,
Lullay, by by, lullay."
1. This endris night: "The other night" or "A few nights ago" Return
2. Veray: True Return
3. Light: Alight Return
4. No nay: Undeniable Return
5. Methinks: I think Return
6. Pay: Satisfaction Return
7. Fay: Faith Return
8. Boon: Favor Return
9. Skill: Reasonable Return
There are numerous carols with a very similar title, and at least five manuscript sources for versions of these two songs, including, but not limited to:
1. Versions from Addit. Ms. 5465, British Library:
2. Versions from Ms. Eng. Poet. e. 1.:
Thys endris nyghth - Thomas Wright (1847); First verse: This lovely lady sat and song
This Endris Night I Saw A Sight - Chambers & Sidgwick; First verse: This lovely lady sat and song
This Winter's Night, I Saw A Sight - Joshua Sylvester, 1861; First verse: This lovely lady sang and sang.
This Endris Night - Version 1, with notes; Source lost; First verse: This lovely lady sat and sang
The Virgin and Child - Bramley and Stainer, Second Series, Carol #25, ca. 1871, with sheet music; First Verse: A lovely lady sat and sang
3. Versions from the Advocates Library, Edinburgh:
This endurs ny3t I see a syght - Wright, 1845; First Line: This lovely lady sete and song
This Endris Night - Version 2 - William Henry Husk, 1868, with sheet music and note; First verse: This lovely lady sat and sang. Sheet Music is from Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, Second Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1913), Carol #51.
4. A Version from the Ms. Royal Appx. 58:
5. A Version from the Balliol MS. 354, the Richard Hill Commonplace Book:
6. A Version from Ritson's Manuscript, Add. MS 5665
This Endes Night I Saw A Sight - Bullen
Because of the similarity of the texts from Add. MS 5465 (Fairfax Ms.) and Add. MS 5665 (Ritson's Ms.), it is impossible to determine the source of Edith Rickert's second version of this carol, This Endernight I Saw A Sight (Burden: "Ah, my dear Son," said Mary, "ah, my dear,), pp. 62-63.
Joshua Sylvester's Note:
The present carol has been copied from a reprint of the ancient manuscript in the possession of Thomas Wright, Esq. [See below] Another version of it will be found in the "Reliquæ Antiquæ," printed from a MS. in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh. It may be remarked that there is a gracefulness and tenderness in many of the touches, not often met with in poems of this early date.
Note that 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 Henry Vizetelly, Christmas With The Poets (London: David Bogue, 1851). His note and footnotes to this carol is identical to that of Sylvester.
William Henry Husk's Note:
This carol is contained in a very curious manuscript copy of Songs and Carols, which was edited by Mr. Thomas Wright in 1847 for the Percy Society. The manuscript was, in Mr. Wright's opinion, "written in the latter half of the fifteenth century, probably during the period intervening between the latter end of the reign of Henry VI [1421-1471], and the beginning of that of Henry VII [1457-1509]." There is another copy in a manuscript of the same period preserved in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh. The easy flow of the verse, the grace of expression, and the refinement of the piece generally, are very remarkable, considering the period of production.
Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols (Now First Printed, From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century) (London: Printed for the Percy Society by Richards, 100, St. Martin's Lane, 1847):
Another copy of this carol is printed in the Reliquiæ Antiquæ, vol. ii, p. 76, from a MS. in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, of the latter part of the fifteenth century.
The Wright version is carol #19, found on page 12 (see link, above). One of the members of the Percy Society in 1847 was William Sandys, the noted antiquarian. The secretary to the Society in 1841 was E. F. Rimbault, another noted collector of carols.
Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 59 as This Endernight I Saw A Sight. For the definition of Endernight Rickert gives "This other night, i.e., recently." She also adds this verse:
8. "My mother sheen, of heaven queen, your asking shall I speed,
So that the mirth displease me not, in words nor yet in deed,
Sing what ye will,
So that my fulfill,
My ten commandments ay;
Ay you for to please,
Let them not cease
To sing, by, baby, lullay."
Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), p. 15, who also notes that this carol is from Songs and Carols, now first printed from a manuscript of the fifteenth century; Edited by Thomas Wright, 1847. (Percy Society Publications).
Bullen gives the following note concerning the reference in the fourth verse to the "kings three":
The names of the three kings were Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar. The first was old, with grey hair and a long beard: his offering was gold. Gaspar, who was young and beardless, brought frankincense ; and Balthazar, who was of a swarthy complexion, offered myrrh. Gold was symbolical of kingship, frankincense of divinity, and myrrh of humanity. The bodies of the three kings were taken, about three hundred years after their death, by the Empress Helena to Constantinople; thence by Eustatius to Milan; afterwards by Renaldus the bishop to Cologne, or Collein. Hence they were commonly called the Three Kings of Collein. There is an old carol about the Three Kings. Wright, in his collection of “Songs and Carols” published by the Percy Society, has printed one version of it [Now ye Crystemas y-cum - Thomas Wright] ...
He goes on to say that the text of "the following copy" (from Notes and Queries, 6th Series, vi. 505-7) is fuller and more accurate. The version which he then gives is substantially the same as that found in Rickert, Now Is Christmas Ycome. Compare: Now ys Crystemas y-cum (Sandys, 1852).
Of course, the Bible does not give the names of the Kings, nor their number (merely the number of gifts presented to the Child).
William Sandys' Note, p. 179.
From Addit. MSS. Brit. Museum, 5465. (being ancient songs, temp. Hen. VII. and VIII. with the music in three and four parts).
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