The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

About The Field They Pipėd Right

For Christmas Eve

Words: English Traditional, Before 1536
Bodleian Library. MA. Eng. Poet. e. 1. XV Cent.

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 97-8.

Tyrle, tyrlow, tyrle, tyrlow,
So merrily the shepherds began to blow.

1. About the field they pipėd right,
So merrily the shepherds began to blow;
Adown from heaven that is so high —
    Tyrle, tyrlow, (tyrle, tyrlow)!

2. Of angels there came a company,
With merry songs and melody.
The shepherds anon gan them aspy.1
    Tyrle, tyrlow, (tyrle, tyrlow)!

3. Gloria in excelsis, the angels sang,
And said that peace was present among,
To every man that to the faith would fong.2
    Tyrle, tyrlow, (tyrle, tyrlow)!

4. The shepherds hied them to Bethlehem,
To see that blessed sun His beam;
And there they found that glorious stream.3
    Tyrle, tyrlow, (tyrle, tyrlow)!

5. Now pray we to that mekė Child,
And to His mother that is so mild,
The which was never defiled,
    Tyrle, tyrlow, (tyrle, tyrlow)!

6. That we may come unto His bliss,
Where joy shall never miss,
Then may we sing in Paradise:
    Tyrle, tyrlow, (tyrle, tyrlow)!

7. I pray you all that be here,
For to sing and make good cheer,
In the worship of God this year.
    Tyrle, tyrlow, (tyrle, tyrlow)!


1. Began to see them. Return

2. Accept. Return

3. Star, or leme=light. Return

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), p. 19, under the title "About The Field They piped Full Right." His version is substantially the same as that given by Rickert, with two exceptions.  For the second line of the first verse, Bullen gives "Even about the midst of the night." In the third verse, Bullen gives the following for the second line: "And said who (how?) peace was present among."

He also notes at page 252:

"Compare a song in the Coventry Mysteries:

“As I rode out this endnes night
Of three jolly shepherds I saw a sight,
And all about their fold a star shone bright:
They sang terli terlow,
So merrily the shepherds their pipes can blow.”

See: As I Out Rode This Enders Night (Rickert, 1910).

Also found, with virtually identical language, in Eleanor M. Brougham, ed., Corn from Olde Fieldes, an Anthology of English Poems from the XIVth to the XVIIth Century. (London, 1918), pp. 6-7.

Versions of this carol occur in three known manuscripts, one of which has been lost. Some versions are composites from two or three manuscripts, such as Terly Terlow, Terly Terlow (Chambers & Sidgwick). Other versions on this website include:

I. Oxford, Bodleian Library Eng. poet. e.1

II. Oxford, Balliol College 354

III. Coventry, MS formerly owned by Thomas Sharp (burned in 1879 according to DIMEV). Versions from Thomas Sharp, Hardin Craig, and Alfred William Pollard.

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