The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Blessed Be That Lady Bright

For Christmas

Words: English Traditional from Bodleian Ms. Eng. Poet. e. 1

Compare: Blessed be that lady bright (Rickert) and
Goddys Sonne Is Borne (Thomas Wright)

Music: Not Stated

Source: E. K. Chambers and F. Sidgwick, eds., Early English Lyrics (London: A. H. Bullen, 1907), #LXXIII, p. 136-137.

Blessed be that lady bright,
That bare a child of great might,
Withouten peine, as it was right,
Maid moder Marye.

Goddes sonne is borne ; 5
His moder is a maid
Both after and beforne,
    As the prophecy said.
                    With ay !
A wonder thing it is to see 10
How maiden and moder one may be ;
Was there never nonne but she
    Maid moder Marye.

This great lord of heaven
Our servant is becom, 15
Thorow Gabriels steven
    Our kind hath benom.
                    With ay !
A wonder thing it is to see
How lord and servant one may be ; 20
Was there never nonne but he,
    Born of maid Marye.

Two suns together
    They ought to shine bright ;
So did that fair ladye, 25
    Whan Jesu in her light.
                    With ay !
A wonder thing is fall ;
The lord that boughte free and thrall
Is found in an asses stall 30
    By his moder Marye.

The sheperdes in her region
    They loked into heaven ;
They see an angell comming down,
    That said with milde steven, 35
                    ' With ay !
Joy be to God almight,
And pece in yerth to man is dite,
For God was born on Chrismes night
    Of his moder Marye.' 40

Three kinges of great noblay,
    Whan that child was born,
To him they tok the redy way
    And kneled him beforn.
                    With ay ! 45
These three kinges cam fro fare,
Thorow leding of a stare,
And offered him gold, encence, and mure,
    And to his moder Marye.

Notes:

16. steven, message.

17. benom, taken.

32. her, their.

38. dite, prepared.

Blessed Be That Lady Bright
#LXXIII, p. 136-137.

Notes to #LXXII, p. 355.

Eng. Poet. e. i. Printed Wright, P.S., 82.

17, hath ; MS. ‘have'.

Fuller citation:

Wright, P.S., 82
Thomas Wright, ed., Songs and Carols Now First Printed From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century (Percy Society, 1847), Carol #67, Goddys Sonne Is Borne, p. 82. [Texts from Eng. Poet, e.1, then in Wright’s possession.]

Eng. Poet. e. 1.
Eng. Poet. e. 1. Paper, 6 x 4 1/4. ‘Seventy six songs, religious and other, including some Christmas carols and drinking songs, presumably collected for the use of a professed minstrel’ (Madan, v. 679). Written partly in English, partly in Latin, partly in both. In several hands ; two pieces of music (facsimiles in E.B.M.). Variants of several poems in Sloane 2593. Dated 1460-80 by Madan, and ‘about 1485-90’ by Nicholson in E.B.M. Belonged in 1847 to Thomas Wright, but was then lost, and was said to have been taken away by the bookbinder to whom it was entrusted (Chappell, 43, note). It was bought for the Bodleian in 1887 at the sale of the library of Joseph Mayer, who was a patron of Wright’s. Described by Madan as above, and in E.B.M., i. xxiv. Edited complete by Wright in 1847 as No. LXXIII of the Percy Society publications (misquoted XXIII by Flügel, Fehr, and others, owing to an error in the Brit. Mus. Catalogue).

Editor's Note: The reference to "XXIII" (23) is to the Volume number published by the Percy Society's series Early English Poetry, Ballads, and Popular Literature of the Middle Ages. Wright's work was Number LXXIII (73) in their list of publications.

MS Eng. Poet. e. 1. is located in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Madan is Falconer Madan, Richard W. Hunt, et al., Summary Catalogue of the Western Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. 7 volumes in 8. (Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1895-1953). E.B.M. refers to Sir John Stainer, ed., Early Bodleian Music. Sacred and Secular Songs together with other MS. Compositions in the Bodleian Library, Oxford : ranging from about a.d. 1185 to about a.d. 1505. Two volumes (vol. i, facsimiles, vol. ii, transcriptions) (London : Novello ; New York : Novello, Ewer, 1901). With an Introduction by E. W. B. Nicholson, and Transcriptions into Modern Musical Notation by J. F. R. Stainer and C. Stainer. A third volume was subsequently published.

The complete description by Madan, pp. 679-680:

29734. In English and Latin, on paper: written about A. D. 1460-80 by several hands : 6 1/4 x 4 3/4 in., in a box lined with red velvet 7 1/4 x 5 3/8 in., 64 leaves : stained and worn in parts, but repaired : binding, green morocco with gold ornament, done for mr. J. Mayer (19th cent.).

Seventy-six songs, religious and other, including some Christmas carols and drinking songs, presumably collected for the use of a professed minstrel : a few have the music as well as the words (foll. 40v , 41v , 50v).

This valuable MS. was edited for the Percy Society (vol. 23) in 1847, see also W. Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time (1855-7), i. 41. Most of the songs are in English or mixed English and Latin, a few in Latin alone.

In 1847 this volume was owned by Thomas Wright, who edited it : he subsequently lost it, and it was bought by the Bodleian at the Joseph Mayer sale (lot 42) on July 19, 1887, for £16.

[On this MS. see further 'Early Bodleian music' i. p. xxiv and plates 99-100 (where I have ascribed the date 'about 1485-90'), ii. pp. 182-4. E. W. B. N.]

Now MS. Eng. poet. e. 1.

Source: Falconer Madan, A summary catalogue of Western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not hitherto been catalogued in the quarto series with references to the Oriental and other manuscripts. Vol. V: Collections received during the second half of the 19th century and miscellaneous MSS. acquired between 1695 and 1890. Nos. 24331-31000. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905), pp. 679-80.

In the Preface to Songs and Carols Now First Printed From a Manuscript of the Fifteenth Century, Thomas Wright wrote:

The following very curious collection of old English Songs and Carols is printed verbatim from a manuscript at present in the possession of the Editor. It appears by the writing and language to have been written in the latter half of the fifteenth century, probably during the period intervening between the latter end of the reign of Henry VI [1421-1471], and the beginning of that of Henry VII [1457-1509]; a date which is confirmed by the fact that the few other copies of songs in this collection that occur elsewhere, are invariably found in manuscripts of the reign of Henry VI or of the age immediately following.

This manuscript has in all probability belonged to a professed minstrel, who sang at festivals and merry makings, and it has therefore been thought to merit publication entire, as giving a general view of the classes of poetry then popular. A rather large proportion of its contents consists of carols and religious songs, such as were sung at Christmas, and perhaps at some other of the great festivals of the church; and these are interesting illustrations of the manners and customs of the age.

Another class of productions, in which this manuscript is for its date peculiarly rich, consists of drinking songs, some of which are singular in their form and not wanting in spirit. The collection also contains a number of those satirical songs against the fair sex, which were so common in the middle ages, and which have a certain degree of importance as showing the condition of private society among our forefathers. In addition to these three classes, the manuscript contains a few short moral poems, which also are not without their peculiar interest.

Manuscript collections of songs like the present, of so early a date, are of great rarity. The only one with which I am acquainted, which may be considered of exactly the same character, is the MS. Sloane, No 2593, in the British Museum, which has generally been ascribed to the reign of Henry VI.

See: Songs and Carols Printed From A Manuscript in the Sloane Collection in the British Museum (London: William Pickering, 1836); twenty songs and carols from Sloane MS 2593, and Songs and Carols from a Manuscript in the British Museum of the Fifteenth Century (The Warton Club, 1856); the complete Sloane MS 2593.

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