The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A New Years Gift
Sent To Sir Simeon Steward

Words: Robert Herrick

 

Source: A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 226-8.

No news of navies burnt at seas;
No noise of late spawn'd tittyries;
No closet plot or open vent,
That frights men with a Parliament:
No new device or late-found trick,
To read by th' stars the kingdom's sick;
No gin to catch the State, or wring
The free-born nostril of the King,
We send to you; but here a jolly
Verse crown'd with ivy and with holly;
That tells of winter's tales and mirth
That milk-maids make about the hearth;
Of Christmas sports, the wassail-bowl,
That tost up, after fox-i'-th'-hole;
Of blind-man-buff, and of the care
That young men have to shoe the mare;
Of twelfth-tide cakes, of pease and beans,
Wherewith ye make those merry scenes,
Whenas ye chuse your king and queen,
And cry out, Hey for our town green!
Of ash-heaps, in the which ye use
Husbands and wives by streaks to chuse;
Of crackling laurel, which fore-sounds
A plenteous harvest to your grounds;
Of these, and such like things, for shift,
We send instead of New-year's gift.
Read then, and when your faces shine
With buxom meat and cap'ring wine,
Remember us in cups full crown'd,
And let our city-health go round,
Quite through the young maids and the men,
To the ninth number, if not ten;
Until the fired chestnuts leap
For joy to see the fruits ye reap,
From the plump chalice and the cup
That tempts till it be tossed up.--
Then as ye sit about your embers,
Call not to mind those fled Decembers;
But think on these, that are t' appear,
As daughters to the instant year;
Sit crowned with rose-buds, and carouse,
Till Liber Pater twirls the house
About your ears, and lay upon
The year, your cares, that's fled and gone:
And let the russet swains the plough
And harrow hang up resting now;
And to the bag-pipe all address,
Till sleep takes place of weariness.
And thus throughout, with Christmas plays,
Frolic the full twelve holidays.

Note from Bullen:

Concerning the reference to Of ash-heaps, in the which ye use, Bullen notes at page 270:

"William Browne (in one of his sonnets to Celia) alludes to this curious mode of divination

If, forced by our sighs, the flame shall fly
Of our kind love and get within thy rind,
Be wary, gentle Bay, and shriek riot high
When thou dost such unusual fervour find:
Suppress the fire, for, should it take thy leaves,
Their crackling would betray us and thy glory.
    Works, ed. Hazlitt, ii. 288.

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