A Christmas Carol
Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), Page #121
Welcome Yule, thou merry man,
In worship of this holy day.
Welcome be thou, Heaven-King,
Welcome born in one morning,
Welcome for whom we shall sing,
2. Welcome be ye, Stephen and John,
Welcome Innocents every one,
Welcome Thomas Martyr one,
3. Welcome be ye, good New Year,
Welcome, Twelfth day both in fere,1
Welcome, saintès lef2 and dear,
4. Welcome be you, Candlemas,
Welcome be you, Queen of Bliss,
Welcome both to more and less,3
5. Welcome be you that are here,
Welcome all, and make good cheer;
Welcome all, another year,
1. Company. Return
2. As from Bullen. Lef = Loved. Hone gives: Saints loved. Return
3. Great and small. Alternate line: "Welcome to thee, more and less." Return
Sheet Music from Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The
English Carol Book, Second Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1913),
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Note from Dr. Rickert:
Nunc gaudet Ecclesia. The first two carols in this group [the other being Eia, Martyr Stephane, page 122] name the Saints days kept at Christmas. Of these St. Stephen's Day, now Boxing Day, seems to have been most celebrated. Cf. p. 221-222 [Now Christmas Draweth Near], where Stephen is already invoked in connection with terms that suggest the custom of asking for "boxes."
See: Hymns to St Stephen
Left: Illustration from Rickert
Copies of this carol on this web site:
Wolcum Be Thu, Hevene Kyng (Ritson, Ancient Songs, 1790)
Wolcu zol thu mery ma (Wolcü be şu heuene kyng; William Sandys, 1833)
Wolcum be thu, hevene kyng; Thomas Wright, 1841)
Welcü Yole In Good Array (Welcü be şu heue kyng; William Sandys, 1852)
Wolcum, Yole, Thou Mery Man (Wolcum be thou, hevene king; Chambers & Sidgwick, 1907)
Welcome Yule (Welcome be thou, Heaven-King; Edith Rickert, 1910) (this page)
Welcome Yule (Welcome be thou, heaven-king; Charles L. Hutchins, 1916)
Welcum, Yole, In Glod Aray (Welcum be thou, Heven Kyng; Richard Greene, 1962)
Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), p. 2, who notes "Printed in Ritson's Ancient Songs, Sandys' Carols, etc. (from Sloane MS, 2593, temp. Henry VI."
Also found in Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861)
This early Carol (temp. Henry VI.) is given by Ritson in his "Ancient Songs and Ballads," with its mixture of Scriptural allusions and invitations to worldly enjoyment, was, doubtless, one of those sung by the tribe of professional minstrels during the several periods of feasting into which the day of Yule was divided. It was thought at first that it could scarcely be classed as religious, yet was that element found so predominant that it has been included in this part.
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.
Husk, William Henry, Songs of the Nativity. London: John Camden Hotten, 1868.
Yule, it is almost needless to observe, is the Anglo-Saxon name for Christmas. This carol is found in a manuscript of the time of Henry VI. preserved in the British Museum, but there is no doubt that the composition is of much earlier date.
The enumeration of the various festivals which occur during the period of Yule-tide, which lasted until Candlemas day, is found in other carols beside the present. Thomas the Martyr mentioned in the second stanza was Thomas a Becket, or, as he was more commonly styled, St. Thomas of Canterbury, whose festival was celebrated on the 29th of December.
Verse 3 and notes 1 and 3 from Hone, and not found in Rickert. Also found in Sylvester.
Also found in Joseph Ritson, Ancient Songs and Ballads From The Reign of King Henry the Second To The Revolution. 1790. W. Carew Hazlitt, ed., Third Edition. London: Reeves And Turner, 1877. Repr. Detroit, MI: Singing Tree Press, 1968, pp. 120-21.
Ritson also notes that the source is the Sloane MS. No. 2593. The version he gives is the same as given above, although the spelling is more archaic. He gives no additional notes.
Also found in Henry Vizetelly, Christmas With The Poets (London: David Bogue, 1851).
Vizetelly also notes that Yule is the Anglo-Saxon for Christmas. He gives the source as the Sloane MSS, No. 2593, fol. 79, ro, and gives the second line of the first verse as:
Welcome, born on this morning.
Feast day of St. Stephan the First Martyr is December 26; See: Hymns to St Stephen
Feast day of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist is December 27; See: Hymns To St. John The Evangelist
Feast day of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, is December 28; See: The Hymns Of The Holy Innocents
Feast day of St. Thomas, Bishop and Martyr is December 29
January 1 is the Octave of Christmas, and the start of the New Year
Twelfth Day is Epiphany, January 6
Candlemas (the blessing of the candles) is February 2; See: Candlemas
The Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary is February 2.