The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Ancient English Christmas Carols

Edith Rickert
Chatto & Windus, 1910
Reprinted 1914, 1928
Dedicated to E.Q.R. and F.E.R.
My Sisters
For Whose Unwearied Assistance
In The Preparation Of This Little Volume
I Am Deeply Grateful

Illustrations From Rickert
(Will Open in a New Window)
Martha Edith Rickert, PhD (1871-1938), was Professor of English at the University of Chicago from 1924 to 1938. She was a distinguished linguist, and co-authored with Professor John M. Manly a major research project on Chaucer published in 8 volumes, 1938-1940.
Here are a few additional biographical notes.
Index to First Lines
Numbers refer to page number in the original volume.
Text only; no music (unless captured from another source).
A, a, a, a (Mary Is A Lady Bright), 16
A, a, a, a, (Listeneth, lordings, both great and small), 129
A blessed bird, as I you say, 186
A Bone, God Wot! 246
A Virgin Pure, This Is Full Sure, 51
Adam lay ybounden, 163
"Ah, my dear Son," said Mary (This Endernight I Saw A Sight), 62
A Jolly Wassel-Bowl, 249
A Lady That Was So Fair And Bright, 5
All after pleasures as I rode one day (Christmas - The Temple), 275
Alleluia, alleluia (There Is A Blossom Sprung Of A Thorn), 117
Alleluia, alleluia (Now May We Mirthes Make), 177
Alleluia, alleluia (
Salvator mundi, Domine), 179
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia (Salvator mundi, Domine), 178
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, now sing we (Here Comes Holly), 262
All That 'Lieve In Christmas Lay, 164
All The Merrier Is That Place, 209
All this night shrill chanticleer (Sun Of Righteousness), 200
All This Time This Song Is Best, 43
All Under the Leaves, and the leaves of life (The Seven Virgins), 145
All You That Are Good Fellows, 234
All You That In This House Be Here, 238
And I mankind (My Love That Mourneth For Me), 140 [An Easter song]
A New Year, A New Year, a child was yborn, 65
An heavenly song, I dare well say (This Day), 172
As I came by a green forest-side, 139 [A Carol of Hunting, sung during the holiday season but unrelated to the birth of Christ]
As I in hoary winter's night stood shivering in the snow (The Burning Babe), 270
As I lay upon a night (Alma redemptoris mater), 14
As I out rode this enders night (Tyrle, tyrlow, tyrle, tyrlow), 99
As I passed by a river-side (Carnal and the Crane), 91
As I Sat Under A Sycamore Tree, 255
As it fell out on a holy day (The Bitter Withy), 86
As It Fell Out One May Morning, 84
As I Went Through A Garden Green, 174
As on the night before this happy morn (Christmas Day - Wither), 198
Ave Maris Stella, 8
Awake, glad heart, get up and sing! (Christ's Nativity) 215
Awake, my soul, and come away (A Hymn For Christmas Day), 285

Behold A Silly Tender Babe, 271
Be merry all that be present (First Line:
Out of the East a star shone bright), 116
Be merry, be merry, I pray you, be merry every one (Be Merry), 203
Blessed be that lady bright, 41
Blessed may Thou be, sweet Jesus, 181
Born Is The Babe, the only Branch of Peace, 199
Bring Us In Good Ale, and bring us in good ale, 245
By-by, Lullaby (First line:
In a dream late as I lay), 67

Can I Not Sing But Hoy? 99 (Under the title "The Jolly Shepherd Wat")
Caput apri defero (The Boars Head In Hand Bring I - Early Version), 260
Cast Off All Doubtful Care, 211
Célébrons la Naissance, 135
Christo paremus canticam, excelsis gloria (When Christ Was Born of Mary Free), 46
Come Bravely On, My Masters, 247
Come Follow, Follow Me, 239
Come, Mad Boys (First Line: Come, mad boys, be glad, boys, for Christmas is here), 235
Come to Bethlehem and ye shall see (A Carol Of The Birth of Christ), 54
Conditor alme siderum (
There is a Child born of Mary), 52

Dormi, Jesu I Mater ridet (The Virgin's Cradle-Hymn), 288

Ecce quod Natura, 131
Eia, Jesus hodie (Blessed Be That Maid Mary), 45
Eia, Martyr Stephane, 122

Fairest of Morning Lights, Appear, 197

Get Ivy And Hull, Woman, Deck Up Thine House, 225
Give Way, Give Way, Ye Gates, And Win, 277
Gloria Tibi, Domine (A Little Child There Is Yborn), 42
Glory To God On High, And Jolly Mirth, 212
God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen, 105
Good Day, Good Day, 218

Hail, blessed virgin, full of heavenly grace (On The Infancy Of Our Saviour), 283
Hail, Comely and Clean! Hail, Young Child!, 96
Hail Mary, Full Of Grace, Mother In Virginity, 12
Here we come a-wassailing (The Wassail Song; alternate title: The Wassailers' Carol), 253
Here We Come A-Whistling (through the fields so green), 254
Hey, hey, hey, hey (The Boar His Head In Hand I Bring), 257
Holly And Ivy Made A Great Party, 262

I Come From Heaven To Tell, 82
I Heard A Mess Of Merry Shepherds Sing, 109
I may sing of a may (The Five Joys), 205
I pray you, be merry and sing with me (Into This World, This Day Did Come), 189
I Saw A Sweet And Silly Sight, 59
I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In, 213
I Sing Of A Maiden, 6
I Sing The Birth Was Born To-Night, 272
Immortal Babe, Who This Dear Day, 210
In Bethlehem, That Noble Place, 104
In Numbers, And But These Few, 276
In The Bleak Midwinter, 293
In the honour of Christës birth (In This Time Of Christmas), 71
Into this world now is come (O Worthy Lord And Most Of Might), 184
Ivy, Chief Of Trees It Is, 263

Jesu, Fili Dei, 183
Jesu, Fili virginis - Version 1, 181
Jesu, Fili virginis - Version 2, 182
Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, Jesu (Jesu, As Thou Art Our Saviour), 176
Joseph Being An Aged Man Truly, 25
Joseph was an old man (The Cherry Tree Carol - Rickert), 88

Let us rejoice and sing (The Conception Of Christ), 38
Lordings, Listen To Our Lay, 134
Lords and ladies all bydene (A New Carol of Our Lady), 36
Lullay, lullay, Thou little tiny Child (Coventry Carol - Version 2), 76
Lullay, Jesu, Lullay, Lullay! (First Line: So blessed a sight it was to see), 74
Lully, lulley, lully, lulley (The Falcon Carol), 193
Lullay, My Child, And Weep No More, 69
Lullay, Mine Liking, My Dear Son, Mine Sweeting, 66

Make We Joy In This Feast, in quo Christus natus est, 53
Make We Merry, Both More And Less, 220
Make We Merry In Hall And Bower, 52
Make We Merry In This Feast, 173
Make We Merry This New Year, 31
Make we mirth for Christës birth (The First Day Of Yule), 223
Man, Be Glad In Hall And Bower, 47
Man, Be Joyful And Mirth Thou Make, 209
Man, Be Merry As Bird On Berry, 48
Man, Move Thy Mind, And Joy This Feast, 102
M and A and R and I, 7
Marvel Not, Joseph, On Mary Mild, 24
Mirabile Misterium ("Wonderful mystery"), 159
Mother, White As Lily Flower, 68
My Heart Of Gold As True As Steel, 143
My Master and Dame, I Well Perceive, 248
My Sweet Little Baby, What Meanest Thou To Cry? 77

Nay, Ivy, nay, it shall not be, ywis (The Contest of the Ivy and the Holly), 264
Nay, Nay, Ivy! 265
Nova, Nova: Ave Fit Ex Eva (First Line: Gabriel of high degree), 30
Novus Sol de virgine (Thou holy daughter of Sion), 17
Now Be We Glad, And Not Too Sad, 44
Now blessed be Thou, Christ Jesu (Of The Birth Of Christ), 192
Now Christmas Draweth Near, 221
Nowell, ell, ell, ell (A Babe Is Born), 49
Nowell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell (Mary Mother, Meek And Mild), 13
Nowell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell, ell (Nowell, Ell, Both Old and Ying), 28
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell (First Line: Tidings true, there be come new), 35
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell (The First Day When Christ Was Born), 180
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell (Now Make We Merry, All And Some), 204
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell (I Am Here, Sir Christemas), 218
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell (The Boar's Head, That We Bring Here), 258
Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell (Out Of Your Sleep Arise), 165
Nowell, nowell, nowell, sing we with mirth (A song upon, Now I must sing), 20
Nowell sing we, both all and some (Exortum Est in Love and Lysse), 166
Now Have Good Day, Now Have Good Day!, 225
Now Is Christmas Ycome, 110
Now Is Well And All Things Aright, 172
Now Let Us Sing, Both More And Less (A Virgin Pure, This Is Full Sure), 51
Now Let Us Sing With Joy And Mirth, 207
Now let us sing with mirth and joy (In Dulci Iubilo), 206
Now Make We Merry, All And Some, 204
Now may we singen as it is (The Babe To Us That Now Is Born), 169
Now of all the trees by the king’s highway (Modryb Marya - Aunt Mary), 287
Now sing we, both all and some (When Saint Stephen Was At Jerusalem), 124
Now sing we, sing we: Gloria Tibi, Domine (Christ Keep Us All, As He Well Can), 187
Now sing we with angelis (A Babe Is Born, To Bliss Us Bring), 72
Now sing we with joy and bliss (Mary, Flower of Flowers All), 170
Now Thrice Welcome, Christmas, 241
Now we should sing and say nowell (From Heaven Was Sent An Angel Of Light), 32

Of A Rose, A Lovely Rose, 9
Of a rose singe we (This Rose is Railed on a Ryse), 11
O Flos de Jesse Virgula, 162
Omnes Gentes Plaudite, 244
Outlanders, Whence Come Ye Last? 291
Out Of The Blossom Sprang A Thorn, 118
Out Of The Orient, Crystal Skies, 57
Over Yonder's A Park, Which Is Newly Begun, 194

Po, po, po, po (At The Beginning Of The Meat), 257
Pray for us that we saved be (In This Vale Of Wretchedness), 522
Pray for us to the Prince of peace (To Thee Now, Christ's Dear Darling), 126
Pray for us to the Trinity (Thou Dearest Disciple Of Jesu Christ), 126
Proface, welcome, welcome (Proface), 257
Psallite gaudentes (When God Was Born Of Mary Free), 128
Puer nobis natus est (Be Glad, Lordings), 22

“Quid petis, O Fili?” (So Laughing In Lap Laid), 63

Regina celi, letare (Gabriel, That Angel Bright), 29
Reges de Saba venient (Now Is The Twelfth Day Ycome), 112
Rejoice, rejoice, with heart and voice (For Christmas Day), 269
Remember, O Thou Man - Version 3, 195
Run, Shepherds, Run shepherds, run where Bethlehem blest appears, 273

Saint Mary, Mother Mild, 3
Saint Stephen Was A Clerk In King Herod's Hall, 123
Salve regina, mater misericordie (O Blessedful Bird, Full Of Grace), 15
Seignors Ore Entendez A Nus, 132
Shall I, mother, shall I, shall I do so? (I Was Born In A Stall), 78
She May Be Called A Sovereign Lady, 22
Sing we all, for time it is (For His Love That Bought Us All Dear), 188
Sing we to this merry company, 19
Sing we with mirth, joy and solace (Glorious God Had Great Pity), 190
Singe we, singe we (Holy maiden, blessed thou be), 18
Sleep, baby, sleep ! The Mother sings (A Christmas Lullaby), 297
So, Now Is Come Our Joyfulst Feast, 226
Sweet baby, sleep ; what ails my dear? (A Rocking Hymn), 281
Sweet, harmless livers! on whose holy leisure (The Shepherds, by Henry Vaughan), 279
Sweet music, sweeter far (The Shepherd's Song), 107

Te laudamus, Te Dominum (O Blessed God In Trinity), 179
The Boar Is Dead, 260
The Boar's Head In Hand Bear I, 259
The Christmas now is past, and I have kept my fast (The Christmas Now Is Past), 222
The First Nowell The Angel Did Say, 55
The Holly And The Ivy, 267
The moon shone bright, and the stars gave a light (The Bellmans Song - Version 1), 205
The New Year Is Begun, 231
There comes a ship far sailing then (There Comes A Ship), 213
There is a Flower sprung of a tree (The Flower Of Jesse), 160
There Is No Rose Of Such Virtue, 8
The rose is the fairest flower of all (The Rose Of Ryse), 142
This Day Christ Was Born, 252
This endernight (This Endris Night - Version 2), 59
Three Damsels In The Queen's Chamber, 295
Tidings I Bring You For To Tell, 256
Tidings, tidings that be true (Whereas Adam Caused By Sin), 168
“To Bethlem did they go, the shepherds three (Masters in This Hall - Version 2), 288
To bliss God bring us, all and some (In Bethlehem, That Fair City), 50
To bliss God bring us, all and some (In Bethlehem, In That Fair City), 183
Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, 146
Tyrle, tyrlow, tyrle, tyrlow (About The Field They Pipëd Right), 97

Verburn patris hodie processit ex virgine (The Son Of The Father Of Heavenly Bliss), 185
Virgo, rosa virginum, Tuum precor filium (Queen Of Heaven, Blessed May Thou Be), 23

Wassail, Wassail, All Over The Town - Version 7, 251
Wassail, Wassail, Out of the Milk Pail, 243
Wassail, Wassail, Wassail, Sing We, 243
Welcome Yule, Thou Merry Man, In Worship of This Holy Day, 121
What cheer? Good cheer Good cheer Good cheer! (Lift Up Your Heartes And Be Glad!) 219
What, heard ye not the King of Jerusalem? (I Shall You Tell A Great Marvel), 34
What sweeter music can we bring? (A Christmas Carol - Herrick), 230
What Tidings Bringest Thou, Messenger? 167
Where is this blessed Babe? (Hymn For Christmas Day - Taylor), 284
Who Can Forget - Never To Be Forgot, 273
With Merry Glee and Solace, 236
Worship we this holy day (Herod That Was Both Wild and Wode), 128


Appendix II to Part I is identified by Rickert as "carols not related to Christmas." They include:


Like Alfred Burt before her, from 1976 to 2001, the late cellist and composer Lesley Hopwood Meyer of Rose Valley, PA, created a series of 26 Christmas cards based on Christmas carols, the texts for many drawn from Edith Rickert's 1910 collection Ancient English Christmas Carols (London: Chatto & Windus) – a volume that she borrowed in her annual pilgrimage to the Free Library of Philadelphia. Many of those carols were performed for friends who attended the annual Christmas parties hosted by Lesley and her husband, Richard.

Verses were drawn verbatim from poems by Jonson, Herrick, Tennyson and others, including traditional sources from as early as 1360; but by the fourth year in the series, Mrs. Meyer's songs had also become slyly autobiographical, as she began to use the centuries-old texts to record the varying fortunes of her own life. She gave double meaning to the words of Robert Herrick: "..where is the babe but lately sprung" from "The Star Song" (1981) on the arrival of her first child. After losing her daughter at 16 months, she selected a 15th Century verse to announce the arrival of her second child, a son: "Now All is Well That Ever Was Woe" (1983). Later on, the tune for "A, A, A, A, Nunc Gaudet Maria" was written during her son's early childhood as variations on "Mary Had A Little Lamb.

In 2007, a private CD was issued containing all 26 of Lesley's carols recorded by St. Luke's Chamber Singers, Jonathan Bowen, Organist and Choirmaster, at The Church of St. Luke and the Epiphany, Philadelphia. The songs were recorded during several sessions from between Nov. 14, 2001 and Nov. 15. 2007. The liner notes included this comment about the words:

Lesley was drawn into this project because the 13th Century sentiment “Kick and beat the grumblers out” appealed to her. Whether “The prunes so lovely” (15th C), “Squadrons of spirits” (16th C), or the autobiographical “A babe is born all of a may, in the salvation of us...”, there was always a bite of charmed language that set the music in motion. In some cases, the preservation of these old texts in Lesley's settings may be their salvation.

In recent years, American composer Robert A. M. Ross had the opportunity to see those Christmas carol cards, and has begun to create arrangements for many of them, including Nunc Gaudet Maria (“Now Mary Rejoices,” first line is “Mary Is A Lady Bright”) and The Time Draws Near. Both of those arrangements were performed by the Lady Chapel Singers, and are included on their second CD, “Magdalene and the Other Mary, Songs of Holy Women.” That CD is available from Church Publishing and also from Also, Mr. Ross' arrangement to Nunc Gaudet Maria has been published by Oxford University Press.

Mr. Ross's arrangements of three of Lesley Hopwood Meyer's carols were first performed by the Philadelphia group “Voces Novae et Antiquae” during their January 2004 concert From Our Home to Yours. An additional three of Lesley's carols were performed during their 2006 concert A Twelfth Night Celebration: The Shaw-Parker Legacy.

Mr. Ross is the process of creating arrangements for several other of Lesley's Christmas carol cards, and all 13 of those arrangements will be premiered at a pair of concerts Dec. 6 & 13, 2009 in Rose Valley, PA. Some of the drawings from the cards will be used for the concert program – drawings which often support the personal references and double meanings of the texts. It is hoped that a professionally-recorded CD of those programs will become available.

Some of the Christmas card carols written by Leslie Hopwood Meyer and arranged by Robert A. M. Ross include:

The verses to Fezziwig’s Ball were adapted from the text of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Dickens begins that narrative with: “In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile....”

Three other songs currently being arranged by Mr. Ross are Proface, Robert Herrick's The Star Song and Sun of Righteousness ("All this night shrill Chanticleer") from A Handfull of Celestiall Flowers, “manuscrib'd” by Ralph Crane, 1632. Mr. Ross reported that he is creating arrangements for two more songs (TBA).

Alice Meyer Wallace has created a web page dedicated to the music of Lesley Hopwood Meyer titled “Six Short Works for Piano and Strings.” This was a recording offered to colleagues and friends to commemorate an "Evening Dedicated to Lesley Hopwood Meyer" presented by the Orchestra Society of Philadelphia On September 17, 2004 at the Main Auditorium, Drexel University, Philadelphia.

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