The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol, Sung To The King1 In The Presence At Whitehall


Words: Robert Herrick (1591-1674), 1648

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 230-1.

Chorus. What sweeter music can we bring,
Than a carol, for to sing
The birth of this our heavenly King?
Awake the voice! Awake the string!
Heart, ear, and eye, and everything,
Awake! the while the active finger
Runs divisions with the singer.

    (From the flourish they come to the song.)


Dark and dull night, fly hence away,
And give the honour to this day,
That sees December turn'd to May.


If we may ask the reason, say
The why and wherefore all things here
Seem like the springtime of the year?


Why does the chilling winter's morn
Smile like a field beset with corn?
Or smell like to a mead new-shorn,
Thus on the sudden?


                                Come and see
The cause why things thus fragrant be:
'Tis He is born whose quickening birth
Gives life and lustre public mirth
To heaven and the under-earth.

Chorus. We see Him come, and know Him ours,
Who with His sunshine and His showers
Turns all the patient ground to flowers.


The Darling of the world is come,
And fit it is we find a room
To welcome Him.


                                The nobler part
Of all the house here, is the heart.

Chorus. Which we will give him; and bequeath
This holly and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour who's our King,
The Lord of all this revelling.


1. Charles I. Return

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 66-7.

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