The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Three Kings

Version 2
Now Is Christmas i-Come

Compare: The Three Kings / I Would Now Sing For (Hutchins)
The Three Kings - Version 3 (Sylvestre)

For The Epiphany

Words: English Traditional
Harleian MS, No. 541, fol. 214, ro

Music: English Traditional

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

Now is Christmas i-come,
Father and Son together in One,
Holy Ghost as ye be one,
                        In fere-a
God send us a good new year-a.

1. I would now sing, for and I might,
Of a Child is fair to sight,
His mother Him bare this enders1 night,
                    So still-a;
And as it was His will-a.

2. There came three kings from Galilee,
To Bethlehem, that fair citie,
To see Him that should ever be
                         By right-a;
Lord, and king, and knight-a.

3. As they went forth with their offering,
They met with Herod, that moody king,
He asked them of their coming
                        This tide a;
And thus to them he said-a:

4. "Of whence be ye, you kings three?"
"Of the East, as you may see,
To seek Him that should ever be
                         By right-a;
Lord, and king, and knight-a:

5. "When you to this Child have been,
Come you home this way again,
Tell me the sights that ye have seen,
                   I pray a;
Go not another way-a."

6. They took their leave both old and young,
Of Herod, that moody king,
They went forth with their offering,
                                  By light-a
Of the star that shone so bright-a.

7. Till they came into that place
Where Jesus and his mother was,
There they offered with great solace
                        In fere-a;
Gold, incense and myrrh-a.

8. When they had their offering made,
As the Holy Ghost them bade,
Then were they both merry and glad
                    And light-a;
It was a good fair sight-a.

9. Anon, as on their way they went,
The Father of heaven an Angel sent,
To those three kings that made present,
                        That day-a
Who thus to them did say-a:

10. "My Lord doth warn you every one,
By Herod king ye go not home,
For an you do, he will you slone2
                 And strye-a;3
And hurt you wonderly-a."

11. So forth they went another way,
Through the might of God, His lay4
As the Angel to them did say,
                    Full right-a
It was a good fair sight-a.

12. When they were come to their countree,
Merry and glad they were all three,
Of the sight that they did see
                       By night-a;
By the star's shining light-a.

13. Kneel we now all here adown
To that Lord of great renown,
And pray we in good devotion
                         For grace-a
In Heaven to have a place-a.

Notes:

1. Last. Return

2. Slay. Return

3. Stay. Return

4. Law. Return

Husk's Note:

This carol is found in a manuscript of the time of Henry VII, now amongst the Harleian manuscripts in the British Museum. Another manuscript in the same collection contains the legend of the Three Kings; and from this we learn that they were Melchoir, King of Nubia and Arabia, who offered to the Saviour gold, and who is described as the least of stature and of person; Baltazar, King of Godonly and son of Saba, who offered incense, and was of mean stature in his person; and Jasper, who was King of Taars (or Tharsis) and of (the isle of) Egrip-Ethiop." Thus was fulfilled the Psalmist's prophecy, "The Kings of Tharsis and of the Isles shall bring presents; the Kings of Arabia and Saba shall bring gifts." They were afterwards baptized by St. Thomas the Apostle, and long after their deaths, their bodies were conveyed by the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, to Constantinople, whence they were removed to Milan, and ultimately to Renatus, or Reinold, Archbishop of Cologne, to the latter city, where they remain, and whence they have acquired the title of the Three Kings of Cologne.

Sylvestre's Note:

Three versions of this carol are known to exist. Two of them have been reprinted by Thomas Wright, Esq., in his collection of carols, edited for the Percy Society. The following has been perfected from these. The carol was written in the reign of Henry VII. With regard to the refrain, such choral endings are common in compositions of the period. Several of the Robin Hood ballads exhibit similar peculiarities of rhyming.

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.

Editor's Note

Also found in Henry Vizetelly, Christmas With The Poets (London: David Bogue, 1851), who notes the origin as the Harleian collection, No. 541, fol. 214, ro. He also notes that there is a copy, with numerous variations, in the Sloane MSS. Wright notes that it is located in Sloane MS., fol. 17, r0

See from Thomas Wright, Specimens of Old Christmas Carols (1841), Now ye Crystemas y-cum. and Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols (1847), Now Ys The Twelthe Day Cum.

See also:

Now ys Crystemas y-cum (Sandys, 1852)

Now Is Christmas Ycome (Rickert, 1910)

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