The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Wassail! Wassail! All Over The Town

Version 1

Alternate Title: Gloucestershire Wassail
See generally Wassailing - Notes On The Songs

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

1. Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl1, we'll drink to thee.2

2. Here's to our horse, and to his right ear,
God send our master a happy new year:
A happy new year as e'er he did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

3. So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

4. Here's to our mare, and to her right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e'er I did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.3

5. So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

6. And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e'er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

7. Here's to our cow4, and to her long tail,
God send our master us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer5: I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it's then you shall hear.

8. Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all.

9. Be here any maids? I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone!
Sing hey O, maids! come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.

10. Then here's to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

1. Some versions have "In the wassail bowl…." Return

2. Some versions have verse 1 as a chorus. Return

3. Another version of this verse is:

And here is to Dobbin and to his right eye,
Pray God send our master a good Christmas pie,
And a good Christmas pie that we may all see;
With our wassailing bowl we'll drink to thee. Return

4. Some versions have And here is to Colly Return

5. Some versions have A bowl of strong beer; Return

Note: A SATB setting, "freely arranged" by R. Vaughan Williams, 1913, can be obtained from Stainer & Bell, Ltd., London.

You can hear this song performed by Jan and John Corbin Goldsberry by opening or downloading an MP3 file (full length, not an excerpt) at Withe and Stone (link opens in a new window at their music page). This is from their CD "On A Cold Frost Morn," volume 1; the CD can be ordered from this page.

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

This carol was seventy years since communicated by Sameul Lysons to Brand, with the information that it was then still sung in Gloucestershire, and that the wassailers brought with them a great bowl dressed up with garlands and ribbon. The names of the horse, mare, and cow in this copy — Dobbin, Smiler, and Fillpaid — are left blank in Brand's copy, to be supplied by the singers as circumstances required. Persons still living remember the Wassailers singing this carol from house to house in some of the villages by the Severn side below Gloucester, nearly fifty years since, and the custom has been uninterruptedly maintained and still subsists in the western parts of the county. On New Year's Eve, December 31st, 1864, the carol was sung in the little village of Over, near Gloucester, by a troop of Wassailers from the neighbouring village of Minsterworth.

These notes refer specifically to the fourth version incorporated here: Wassail Wassail All Over The Town - Version 4, although, of course, they apply to all versions of this carol.

Other Versions:

William Studwell, The Christmas Carol Reader

This eighteenth-century folk carol from the Gloucestershire region of England is an open and direct celebration of the most secular functions of the holiday season. It is a very skillfully crafted tribute to the raucous rituals of Christmas cheer, with a strong melody which is eminently suitable to the liveliness of Gloucestershire. A carol with similar lyrics but a lesser tune ("Somerset Wassail") was created in the county of Somerset at about the same time. The existence of multiple wassail songs illustrates the widespread popularity of the traditional wassail custom.

Editor's Note

There are a large number of wassail songs, which also includes a Cornish Wassail - Version 1 and a Yorkshire Wassail, among others. The following version of the Gloucestershire Wassailer's Song is from Robert Bell, ed., Ancient Poems, Ballads and Songs of England (John W. Parker and Son, 1857). The full title was “Ancient Poems, Ballads And Songs Of The Peasantry Of England. Taken Down From Oral Recitation and Transcribed From Private Manuscripts, Rare Broadsides and Scarce Publications.”

Mr. Bell notes: "It is still customary in many parts of England to hand round the
wassail, or health-bowl, on New-Year's Eve.  The custom is supposed
to be of Saxon origin, and to be derived from one of the
observances of the Feast of Yule.  The tune of this song is given
in Popular Music.  It is a universal favourite in Gloucestershire,
particularly in the neighbourhood of [not included in the e-text version]."

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white, and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl is made of a maplin tree;
We be good fellows all;--I drink to thee.

Here's to our horse,6 and to his right ear,
God send our measter a happy new year:
A happy new year as e'er he did see, -
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

Here's to our mare, and to her right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e'er I did see, -
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

Here's to our cow, and to her long tail,
God send our measter us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer:  I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it's then you shall hear.

Be here any maids?  I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone!
Sing hey O, maids! come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.

Come, butler, come, bring us a bowl of the best;
I hope your soul in heaven will rest;
But if you do bring us a bowl of the small,
Then down fall butler, and bowl and all.

Note from Mr. Bell:

6. In this place, and in the first line of the following verse, the name of the horse is generally inserted by the singer; and 'Filpail' is often substituted for 'the cow' in a subsequent verse.

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