As I Walked By A Forest Side
A Hunting Song For Christmas
Words and Music: Middle English Carol prior to the 16th Century
From Richard Hill's Common-place Book, Manuscript 354, folio. 178, pp. 374-375.
Compare: As I Came By A Grene Forest Syde - 1801 from Haslewood
Source: James Anthony Froude, 'The Commonplace Book of Richard Hilles,' in Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, August 1858, Vol. LVIII, No. CCCXLIV, page 131.
As I walked by a forest side
I met with a forester: he bade me abide
At a place where he me set—
He bade me what time an hart I met
That I should let slip and say go bett;
With Hay go bett, Hay go bett, Hay go bett,
How we shall have game and sport enow.
I had not stand there but a while,
Yea, not the maintenance of a mile,
But a great hart came running without any guile;
With there he goeth—there he goeth—there he goeth;
Now we shall have game and sport enow.
I had no sooner my hounds let go
But the hart was overthrow;
Then every man began to blow,
How we shall have game and sport enow.
This carol is considered by Richard Leighton Greene and others as being the older of the two known versions. The other version was printed by Wynkyn de Worde in his Christmasse Carolles Newly Enprinted, 1521. See: As I Came By A Grene Forest Syde - 1801.
The phrase "not the montenance of a myle" is understood to be "not the time it takes to go a mile." See Chambers & Sidgwick, Early English Lyrics (1907), the note on p. 370 to Carol CXXVI, 'Lord, how shall I me complain.'
This article was reprinted in The Living Age, Volume 58, No. 748, September 25, 1858, Enlarged Series, No. 26, page 965. Wynkyn de Worde's version, "As I came by a grene forest syde" (1521), was not printed in Froude's article.
This is the first reprinting of Hill's version of this carol that I've found. versions on this site include:
As I Walked By A Forest Side - Froude (1858) (this page)
Padelford, Dyboski, Flügel, and Greene carry both carols.
The reading of Hill's handwriting can be a bit of a challenge – remember, this is the early 16th century. In addition to earlier spellings of words, there were a number of individual letters that are different now. This has led to a differing perceptions in the 4th line of the second stanza:
Froude: With there he goeth—there he goeth—there he goeth;
Flügel: with yer he goth, yer he goth, yer he gothe, how!
Padelford: with: 'Yer he goth, yer he goth, yer he gothe, how!
Dyboski: With " žer he goth, žer he goth, žer he gothe " ! (Note: the “ž” character is called the thorne, and is usually rendered as “th.”)
Greene: With 'Ther he goth! Ther he goth! ther he gothe! How!'
The differing transcriptions arise from the use of the “ž” character (the thorne) which looked exactly like the letter 'y.' This, by the way, is how we get 'ye old tea shoppe' -- the 'y' was originally a “ž,” and should have been rendered as 'th,' which would give us the correct rendering of: 'the old tea shoppe.'
Here is a recreation of Hill's manuscript copy of 'As I walked by a fforest side' using the font 'Junius Rough' (created by Peter S. Baker):
The manuscript is on-line in the Balliol College Library, Manuscript 354, folio. 178, pp. 374-375.
Dr. Edith Rickert writes that "Hey go bet" is a hunting cry. Although she does not include this song as a Christmas-tide song, the substantially similar version of the carol, "As I came by a grene forest syde," was reproduced in Wynkyn de Worde's Christmasse Carolles (1521). From this we can conclude that this was a song sung during the Christmas-tide. Note that at one time, the hunting season for the wild boar was from Christmas Day to Candlemas (February 2).
Froude article, 'The Commonplace Book of Richard Hilles,' was the first mention of the Hill Manuscript that I've found so far. Dyboski's Songs, Carols, and Other Miscellaneous Poems was the first to give us a reprinting of the Christmas songs and similar content in the Hill Manuscript.
Several antiquarians played a part in locating and reproducing this and other carols from Richard Hill, Wynkyn de Worde, and others:
Anthony Wood or Anthony ą Wood (17 December 1632 – 28 November 1695) led a life entirely devoted to antiquarian research. His major work was History and Antiquity of the Universitie of Oxon, later translated into Latin and published as Historia et antiquitates Universitatis Oxoniensis. Wood bequeathed his library of 970 books and 127 manuscripts to the Ashmolean Museum, which in 1858 was transferred to the Bodleian Library. See: The Boar's Head Carol - Wood, 1660.
Thomas Hearne (July 1678 – 10 June 1735) was an English antiquarian, who discovered the Wynkyn de Worde Christmasse Carolles fragment. He was assistant keeper of the Bodleian Library from 1699 to 1712, when he was appointed second keeper, a post he held until 1715 when he was elected Architypographus and Esquire Bedell in civil law in the university. He published numerous books and manuscripts; his research was valued due to its depth of scholarship. Much of his library found its way to the Bodleian Library, Oxford.
Philip Bliss (21 December 1787 – 18 November 1857) was an antiquarian and book collector. Except for a brief time in 1822, Rev. Bliss was associated with the Bodleian Library from 1810 through 1858. He was also Registrar of Oxford University from from 1824 to 1853, and Keeper of the Archives from 1826 to 1857. Among his works were:
His edition in four volumes (1813–20) of Anthony ą Wood's "Athenę Oxonienses and Fasti."
"Reliquię Hearnianę; the Remains of Thomas Hearne," consisting of a selection from his voluminous manuscript diaries.
The "Account of the Christmas Prince as it was exhibited in the university of Oxford in l607," which was written by Griffin Higgs. See: The Boare Is Dead before the Christmas Prince, 1607.
A selection of "Bibliographical Miscellanies," of which one number only appeared in 1813 in 104 copies, which included notice of Wynkyn de Worde's fragment from 1521, plus the Christmas carols printed by Richard Kele in the mid-1500's that had been discovered "by a friend," whose name is unknown. See: Kele's Christmas Carolles.
Thomas Frognall Dibdin (1776 – 18 November 1847), an English antiquarian and bibliographer, the author of numerous bibliographical works including in 1810 a new and much extended edition of Ames's Typographical Antiquities, which contained in Vol. II a reprint of Wynkyn de Worde's carols plus a three-page insert concerning the Boar's Head Carols, said to have been prepared by Philip Bliss; see Dibdin On The Boar's Head Carol. Between 1810-45 he exchanged letters with Philip Bliss (see Add MSS 34567-81, in the British Museum).