The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Lyth and lystyn, both old and §yng

For Christmas

Words and Music: Traditional English
Bodleian Library. MS. Eng. poet. e. 1. XV Century

Source: Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols Now First Printed, From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (London: The Percy Society, 1847), Song #16, printed verbatim from a manuscript probably owned by a professional musician, and apparently written in the latter half of the fifteenth century, circa 1471-1485.

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Of a rose, a lovely rose,
     Of a rose I syng a song.

Lyth and lystyn, both old and §yng,
How the rose begane to spryng,
A fayyrer rose to owre lekyng
    Sprong ther never in kynges lond.

v. branchis of that rose ther ben,
The wych ben both feyer and chene;
Of a maydyn, Mary, hevyn qwene,
    Ou3t of hyr womb the branch sprong.

The [first] branch was of gret honour,
That blyssed Mary shuld ber the flour;
Ther cam an angell ou3t hevyn toure,
    To breke the devels bondes.

The secund branch was gret of my3t,
Yt sprong up on Cristmes my3t,
The sterre shone and leme3d bry3t,
    That man shulde se it both day and ny3t.

The iij. branch gan spryng and spred,
iij. kynges than to branch gan led,
Tho to owre lady in hyr chyldbed,
    Into Bethlem that branch sprong ry3t.

The iiij. branch it sprong to hell,
The devels powre for to fell,
That no soule therin shuld dwell,
    The braunch so blessedfully sprong.

The v. branch it was so swote,
Yt sprong to hevyn both croppe and rote;
In every ball to ben owre bote,
    So blessedly yt sprong.

Note from Wright:

This song is found also, with some variations, in the Sloane MS. fol. 6, v0. Compare: Of A Rose, A Lovely Rose (Rickert)

Editor's Note:

Other versions of this carol on this website:

There are other carols on this web site with similar first lines or burdens, although they have very separate themes and lyrics, including:

"Listen, Lordings, Both Great and Small" (Burden: A, a, a, a, Nunc gaudet ecclesia):

"Listen, Lordings, both leve and dear" (Nowell, -ell, both Old and Young):

"Listen, Lordings, Both More and Less" (Burden: Puer nobis natus est de Virgine Maria)

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