The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

When Bloody Herod Reigned King

For St. John the Baptist
Feast Day is June 24

Words: English Traditional

Tune: "Oh no, Oh no, not yet."

 The Roxburghe Ballads 3.452, The British Library, Shelfmark C.20.f.9(452)

Source: Four Choice Carols for Christmas Holidays, The English Broadside Ballad Archive, University of California, Santa Barbara, ca. 1700

Compare: When Bloody Herod Reigned King

See: Hymns Concerning St. John The Baptist

Being very necessary and proper to be had in all CHRISTIAN FAMILIES.


When bloody Herod reigned King,
    Within Judea's Land,
Much Wo his Will did bring,
    By bloody fierce Command.
Among the Rest, with Grief oppressd;
    Was good St John here slain,
Who at this Day with Sport and Play,
    A martyrd Death did gain.

King Herod being in his Town,
    Herodias dancing spyd,
As fair as any Summers Flower,
    In all her painted Pride:
Clad in bright Gold, which to behold,
    King Herods Heart admird,
He bid her crave, and she should have,
    Though she Half his Crown desird.

A kingly Crown I do not wish,
    But St Johns Head, she said,
Wherefore all bleeding in a Dish,
    Before me be it laid;
Which was the Thing, she of the King,
    Desird with right Goodwill;
Whose Death was wrought and to be brought,
    Such Minds have Strumpets still.

Thus Wine and Woman we do see,
    Mens Minds to Folly win;
For Herod did too soon agree,
    And gave Consent to Sin:
For on this Day, as Scriptures say,
    St John did lose his Head:
Whilst he did sing, before the King,
    As he at Table fed.

Then let us all by him take Heed
    Of Riot and Excess,
For Fear that soon to us it breed
    As great a Wickedness:
And let our Sport, in civil Sort,
    Content each merry Mind,
So shall we all, in this good Hall,
    Much Joy and comfort find.

Now kindly for my pretty Song,
    Good Butler draw some Beer,
You know what duties do belong
    To him that sings so clear:
Holly and Ive, Drink will drive ye
    To the brown bowl of Perry,
Apples and Ale, with Christmas Tale,
    Will make the Houshold merry.


One of four carols on this Broadside. The carols were:

Also found in Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth, ed., The Roxburghe Ballads. Part XX., Vol. VII. (Hertford: Printed for the Ballad Society By Stephen Austin and Sons, 1871, 1890), pp. 776-777. Carol 3. [See Note p. 777. Tune, Oh no, Oh no, not yet.]

The Roxburghe Ballads, Vol. 7, p. 775. 

Note By J.W. Ebsworth in The Roxburghe Ballads, Part XX., Vol. VII, on pp. 777-778:

No Colophon. Three woodcuts: 2nd, the Madonna and child; between, 1st, St. Matthew, and 3rd, St. John Evangelist. Roxb. has no Colophon, but the second and third of these ditties were printed by J. Millet in a volume of New Carols (Wood's No. 40), in Black-letter, circa 1674, or earlier, and this is the probable date of the originals. Ours is a modern reprint in White-letter. It is a fairly trustworthy version.

Note.—Although the Third Carol, "When bloody Herod reigned King," is mistakenly applied to John the Baptist, instead of concerning the Evangelist's festival, the woodcut was rightly assigned. Two other woodcuts of St. John are given on pp. 778 and 790. The tune to it is, " Oh no, Oh no, not yet" (p. 141); the tune of "In friendly love and unity" is, ' Where is my true love ?' Both these carols are in Wood's New Christmas Carols, 110, art. 5.

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