To Shorten Winter's Sadness
Weelks (c1576 - 1623)
From Madrigals, 1597
Music available at the Old Music Project's Thomas Weelks Page
Source: A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), p. 225
To shorten winter's sadness
See where the nymphs with gladness
Disguised all are coming,
Right wantonly a mumming.
Whilst youthful sports are lasting,
To feasting turn our fasting;
With revels and with wassails
Make grief and care our vasals.
For youth it well beseemeth
That pleasure he esteemeth;
And sullen age is hated
That mirth would have abated.
Note from Bullen:
Concerning the reference to “Right wantonly a mumming” in the first verse, Bullen adds this note.
"Christmas mumming still continues in many parts of the country, but it is only the shadow of its former self. A few years ago it was kept up at Chiswick. Robert Bell (in “Songs of the Peasantry”) gives an amusing Mummer’s Song that used to be sung in the neighbourhood of Richmond, Yorkshire, by a rustic actor dressed as an old horse. One verse in a Somersetshire Mummer’s song is very droll
comes I, liddle man Jan,
With my zword in my hand!
If you don’t all do
As you be told by I,
I’ll zend you all to York
For to make apple-pie.”
"My fair Oxfordshire correspondent writes :— “The mummers still go round to the farm-houses at home, but their glory has departed. I can remember being immensely pleased with their acting, and remember one little bit they said which always took my fancy. One fellow would shout out, ‘Come in, Jack Spinner!’ Then in came Jack Spinner, saying :—
comes I as an’t bin it,
We my gret yead and little wit.’
(i.e. Here come I that haven’t been
With my great head and little Wit.)”
"In “Round about our Coal Fire” we read — “Then comes Mumming or Masquerading, when the squire’s wardrobe is ransacked for dresses of all kinds, and the coal-hole searched around, or corks burnt to black the faces of the fair or make deputy-moustaches; and every one in the family except the squire himself must be transformed from what they were.”