The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

I wyll yow tell a full good sport

Words and Music: Traditional English

Source: Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols Now First Printed, From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (London: The Percy Society, 1847), Song #74, 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.

How, gossip myn, gossipe myn,
When wyll ye go to the wyu.

I wyll yow tell a full good sport,
How gossyps gather them on a sort,
Theyre syk bodies for to comfort,
    When thei mett in a lane ore stret.

But I dare not, fore ther displeasaunce,
Tell off thes maters half the substaunce;
But yet sumwhatt off their governaunce,
    As fare as I dare, I will declare.

Good gossipe myn, where have ye be?
It is so long syth I yow see.
Where is the best wyn? tell yow me.
    Can yow ought tell ful wele.

I know a drawght off mery-go-downe,
The best it is in all thys towne;
But yet wold I not, fore my gowne,
    My husbond it wyst, ye may me trust.

Call forth yowr gossips by and by,
Elynore, Jone, and Margery,
Margaret, Alis, and Cecely;
    For thei will come both all and sume.

And ich of them wyll sumwhat bryng,
Gosse, pygge, ore capons wyng,
Pastes off pigeons, ore sum other thyng;
    For a galon off wyn thei will not wryng.

Go befoore be tweyn and tweyn,
Wysly, that ye be not seen;
Fore I must home, and come ageyn,
    To witt i-wys where my husbond is.

A strype ore ij. God myght send me,
If my husbond myght her se me.
She that is aferd, lett her fle,
    Quod Alis than, I dred no man.

Now be we in tavern sett,
A drowght off the best lett hymn fett,
To bryng owr husbondes out off dett;
    For we will spend, tyll God more send.

Ech off them brought forth ther dysch;
Sum brought flesh, and sume fysh.
Quod Margaret mek, now with a wysh,
    I wold Ane were here, she wold make us chere.

How sey yow, gossips, is this wyne good?
That it is, quod Elenore, by the rood;
It cherisheth the hart, and comfort the blood;
    Such jonckettes among shal mak us lyv long.

Anne, byd fill a pot of muscadell;
fore off all wynes I love it well,
Swete wynes kepe my body in hele;
    If I had off it nought, I shuld tak gret thought.

How look ye, gossip, at the bordes end?
Not mery, gossip,? God it amend.
All shalbe well, elles God it defend;
    Be mery and glad, and sitt now so saddle.

Wold God I had done aftur yowr counsell!
Fore my husbond is so fell,
He betyth me lyk the devill off hell;
    And the more I cry, the lesse mercy.

Alys with a lowd voyce spak then,
I-wis, she seid, lytyll good he cane,
That betyth ore strykyth ony woman,
    And specially his wyff; God gyve him short lyve!

Margaret mek seid, So mot I thryffe,
I know no man that is alyffe,
That gyve me ij. strokes, but he shal have fyffe;
    I ame not aferd, though I have no berd.

On cast down her schott, and went her wey.
Gossip, quod Elenore, what dyd she paye?
Not but a peny. Lo, therefore I saie,
    She shall be no more off owr lore.

Such gestes we may have i-nowe,
That will not fore ther shott alow.
With whom cum she? gossipe, with yow?
    Nay, quod Jone, I come alone.

Now rekyn owr shott, and go we hence,
What? cost it ich off us but iij. pence?
Parde, thys is but a smale expence,
    Fore such a sort, and all but sport.

Torn down the street where ye cum owt,
And we will compasse rownd abowt.
Gossip, quod Anne, wht nedyth that dowt?
    Yowr husbondes be plesyd, when ye be reisyd.

What so ever ony man thynk,
Whe cum fore nowght but fore good drynk
Now lett us go whom and wynk;
    For it may be sen, where we have ben.

This is the thought that gossips tak,
Ones in the weke mery will thei mak,
And all small drynk thei will forsak;
    But wyne off the best shall han no rest.

Sume be at the taverne ons in a weke;
And so be sume every daie eke;
Ore ellis thei will gron and make them sek.
    Fore thynges usid will not be refusyd.

Who sey yow, women, is it not soo?
Yes, suerly, and that ye wyll knowl;
And therfore lat us drynk all a row,
    And off owr syngyng mak a good endyng.

Now fyll the cupe, and rynk to me;
And than shal we good felows be.
And off thys talkng leve will we,
    And speak then good off women.

Note from Wright:

The following imperfect copy of this very curious ballad was printed by Ritson (Ancient Songs, p. 77) from a MS. in the Cottonian Library, Titus A. xxvi, fol. 161, r0. under the somewhat singular title of "Lytyll thanke." Ritson conjectured rightly, as will be seen from my copy that some stanzas were wanting at the beginning; in fact his copy begins at the seventh stanza of the ballad as preserved in the MS. in my possession. It will be seen that there are numerous and very considerable variations in the two copies.

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Go ye beffore be twayne and twayne,
Wysly that ye be not i-sayne,
And I shall go home and com agayne,
To witte what dothe owre syre,
                    Gode gosyp.

For 3yff hit happ he dyd me see,
A strype or to God myght sent me.
3ytte sche that is aferde lette her flee,
For that is nowght be this fyre,
                    Gode gosyp.

That everyche of hem browght ther dysche,
Sum browght fleshe and som brought fyshe.
Quod Margery meke than with a wyise,
I wold that Frankeleyne the harper were here,
                    Gode gosyp.

She hade notte so sone of the world i-sayd,
But in come Frankelyn at a brayd;
God save youe, mastres! he sayde,
I come to make youe some chere,
                    Gode gosyp.

Anon he began to draw owght his harpe.
Tho the gossyppus began to starte,
They callyd the tawyrner to ffyll the quarte;
                    Good gosyp.

Then seyd the gossyppus all in fere,
Streke up harper, and make gode chere,
And wher tht I goo, fere or nere,
To owre hu[s]bondes make thou no [boste.]
                    God gosyp.

Nay mastres, as motte I thee,
Ye schall newyr be wrayed ffor me;
I had lever her dede to be,
As hereof to be knowe,
                    Good gosyp.

They ffylled the pottes by and by,
They lett not for no coste trully;
The harpyr stroke upe merrely.
That they myght onethe blowe.
                    Good gosyp.

They sette them downe, they myght no more,
Theyre legges they thought were passyng soore;
They prayd the harper kepe sum store,
And lette us drynke abowght,
                    Gode gosyp.

Heye the, tavernere, I praye the,
Go fyll the potteys lyghtly,
And latte us dry[n]ke by and by,
And lette the cupe goo route;
                    Good gosyp.

This ys the thowght that gossyppus take.
Onys in the weke they wyll merey make,
And all smalle drynckys they wyl forsake.
And drynke wyne of the best.
                    Good gosyp.

Some be at the taverne onys in the weke,
And some be there every day eke,
And ellse ther hertes will be seke,
And gyffe her hosbondys ewyll reste.
                    Good gosyp.

When they had dronke and mad them glad,
And they schuld rekyn, theyn they sad,
Call them tavernere anone, they bade,
That we were lyghtly hens.
                    Good gosyp.

I swee by God and by seynt Jayme,
I wold notte that owre syre at home,
That we had this game,
Notte for fourty pens,
                    Good gosyp.

Gadyr the scote and lette us wend,
And lette us goo home by lurcas ende.
For dred we mete not with owre frend
Or that we come home,
                    Good gosyp.

When they had there countes caste,
Everyche of hem spend vjd at the last.
Alas, cothe Seyscely, I am agaste,
We schall be schent evrychone,
                    Good gosyp.

From the taverne be they all goone,
And everyche of hem schewythe her wysdom,
And there sche tellythe her husbond anone,
Shee had bene at the chyrche.
                    Gode gosyp.

Off her werke she takythe no kepe,
Sche muste as for anowe go sclepe,
And ells for aggeyr wyll sche wepe,
Sche may no werkes wurche.
                    Good gosyp.

Off her slope when sche dothe wake,
Faste in hey then gas sche arake,
And cawthe her serwantes abowte the bake,
Yff to here they outhe had sayd.
                    Good gosyp.

Off this proses I make an end,
Becawse I will have women to be my ffrend;
Of there dewosyon they wold send
A peny forto drynke at the end.
                    Gode gosyp.

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