The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Three Kings

Version 3
Now Is The Time Of Christmas Come

Compare: The Three Kings / I Would Now Sing For (Hutchins)
The Three Kings - Version 2 (Husk)

For The Epiphany

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

Music: English Traditional

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

Now is the time of Christmas come,
Together joined are Father and Son,
And with the Holy Ghost are one,
                        In fere-a
God send us a new year-a.

1. I would now sing, if that I might,
Of a Child, so fair to sight,
A maiden bare this winter's 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 Herod, that moody king,
He asked them of their coming
                        That way-a;
And thus to them 'gan say-a:

4. "From whence come ye, you kings three?"
"Out 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 this child have been,
Come you home this way again,
And tell me all that ye have seen,
                   I pray a;
Go not another way-a."

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

7. Till they came to that blissfull 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 king Herod ye go not home,
For if you do, you will be slain
                        Full soon-a;
And woe to you to be done-a."

11. So forth they went another way,
Through the might of God, his lay
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 stars 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 we have a place-a.

Sylvester'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.

See 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.

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.

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 also:

Now ys Crystemas y-cum (Sandys, 1852)

Now Is Christmas Ycome (Rickert, 1910)

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