The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Ritson, A Caroll Bringyng In The Bores Heed, 1790

Source: Joseph Ritson, Ancient Songs From the Time of King Henry The Third to the Revolution (London: J Johnson, 1790), p. 125.

See: Notes On The Boar's Head Carols



Printed from that eminent and excellent antiquary Thomas Hearnes "Notae & Spicilegium" to William of Newborough (III. 745.), where it is thus introduced: " I will beg leave here to give an exact copy of the Christmass Carol upon the Boar's Head (which is an ancient Dish, and was brought up by K. Henry 'II.' with Trumpets before his Son when his said Son was crowned [Hollynshed's Chron. Vol. III. p. 76.]) as I have it in an old Fragment (for I usually preserve even Fragments of old books ) of the Christmass Carols printed by Wynkyn de Worde,. ... by which it will be perceived how much the same Carol is altered as it is sung in some places even now from what it was at first. It is the last Thing, it seems, of the Book (which I never yet saw intire) and at the same time I think it proper also to add the Printer's Conclusion, for this reason, at least, that such as write about our first Printers may have some notice of the Date of this Book, and the exact Place where printed, provided they cannot be able to meet with it, as I believe they will find it pretty difficult to do, it being much laid aside about the time that some of David's Psalms came to be used in it's stead."

The Colophon runs thus: Thus endeth the Christmasse carolles / newely enprinted at London / in the fletestrete at the sygne of the sonne by Wynkyn de Worde. The yere of our lorde. M. D. xxi.

By the words "some places even now" he seems to allude to Queens College, Oxford, where this antique ceremony is still observed; with this considerable improvement, indeed, that the Boars head is neatly carved in wood.

The book of Psalms above referred to is in a note thus described, "Certaine of David's Psalmes intended for Christmas Carolls fitted to the most common but solempne Tunes, every where familiarly used: By William Slatyer. Printed by Robert Young 1630. 8."

The ancient crest of the family of Edgcumbe was the Boars head, crowned with bays, upon a charger; which has been very injudiciously changed into the entire animal.

CAPUT apri differo
Reddens 'laudes' domino.

The bores heed in hand bring I
With garlans gay and rosemary
I pray you all synge merely
Qui estis in conuiuio.

The bores heed I vnderstande
Is the 'chefe' seruyce in this lande
Loke where euer it be fande
Seruite cum cantico.

Be gladde lordes bothe more and lasse
For this hath ordeyned our stewarde
To chere you all this Christmasse
The bores heed with mustarde.


V.1. differo] Sic pro defero.

V.2. laudens.

V.2. thefe.




This, and the following ancient Christmas Carols, art given, merely as curiosities, from the editors folio MS. where each is accompanied with a musical composition for three voices ; but which, neither in point of merit nor antiquity, seems to deserve, what the editor once intended it, a place in this work.

Nowel, Nowel (the old French name for Christmas), was the usual burden to this sort of things. Many instances of which may be found in N 2593. Bib. Sloan.

Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell,
Tydyngs gode y thyngke to telle.

The borys hede that we bryng here
Be tokeneth a p'nce with owte pere,
Ys born' this day to bye vs dere,

A bore ys a souerayn beste,
And acceptable in eu'y feste,
So mote thys lord be to moste & leste,

This borys hede we bryng wt song,
Jn worchyp of hym that thus sprang,
Of a virgyne to redresse all wrong,


The next song that Ritson gave was "I Am Here, Syre Christmasse."

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