The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Wassail and Wassail All Over The Town

Version 6

Alternate Title: Wassail Song

See generally Wassailing - Notes On The Songs

Words and Music: English Traditional
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Source: Cecil J. Sharp, ed., One Hundred English Folksongs (Oliver Ditson Company, Boston, 1916), #92, reprinted by Dover Publications, New York, 1975.

1. Wassail and wassail all over the town,
The cup it is white and the ale it is brown;
The cup it is made of the good old ashen tree,
And so is our beer of the best barley.
    To you a wassail!
    Aye, and joy come to our jolly wassail.

2. O maid, O maid, with your silver-headed pin,
Pray open the door and let us all in,
All for to fill our wassail-bowl and so away again.
    To you a wassail!
    Aye, and joy come to our jolly wassail.

3. O maid, O maid, with your glove and your mace,
Pray come unto this door and show your pretty face,
For we are truly weary of standing in this place.
    To you a wassail!
    Aye, and joy come to our jolly wassail.

4. O master and mistress, if you are so well pleased
Pray set all on your table your  white bread and your cheese,
And put forth your roast beef, your porrops and your pies.
    To you a wassail!
    Aye, and joy come to our jolly wassail.

5. O master and mistress, if we've done any harm,
Pray pull fast this door and let us pass along,
And give us hearty thanks for singing of our song.
    To you a wassail!
    Aye, and joy come to our jolly wassail.


Notes from Sharp:

The old custom of wassail singing still survives in many parts of England, though it is fast dying out. The ceremony is performed on January 5, i.e., the eve of Epiphany. It is of Saxon origin, the word "wassail" (accent on the last syllable) meaning "be of good health," of A.-S. wes = be, and hal = whole or hale. The cup "made of the good old ashen tree" takes us back to the period when all common domestic vessels were of wood. In early times there was an ecclesiastical edict against the use of wooden vessels for the Holy Communion.

Sir James Ramsay, in his Foundations of England (volume ii), quotes an old Saxon "toasting-cry" from Wace, the Anglo-Norman poet (d. 1180). The Chronicles says that the following lines were sung in the English camp on the eve of the battle of Hastings:

Bublie crient weissel,
E laticome drencheheil
Drine Hindrewart Drintome
Drinc Helf, drinc tome.

This, according to Sir James Ramsay, may be translated thus:

Rejoice and wassail
Let it come (pass the bottle) and drink health
Drink backwards and drink to me
Drink half and drink empty.

For other versions, see "Somersetshire Wassail" (A Garland of Country Song, No. 20); Sussex Songs (No. 3); and The Besom Maker (p. 9). For a Gloucestershire version, see English Folk Carols (No. 21).

The strong tune in the text is in the Dorian mode.


Compare:

Wassail! Wassail! All Over The Town - Version 1
Wassail! Wassail! All Over The Town - Version 2
Wassail! Wassail! All Over The Town - Version 3
Wassail Wassail All Over The Town - Version 4
Wassail! Wassail! All Over The Town - Version 5

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