The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Boar His Head In Hand I Bring

Words and Music: English Traditional
Found in The Porkington Manuscript, #10, f 202 r; now referred to as Brogyntyn MS ii.1.

Source: William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868), p. 116.

Version One of Seven From Husk
See generally Boar's Head Carols

Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!
The Boar his head is armèd gay.

1. The boar his head in hand I bring
With garland gay in porttoring,1
I pray you all with me to sing,
                                With Hey!

2. Lords, knights, and squires,
Parsons, priests, and vicars,
The boar his head is in the first mess,2
                                With Hey!

3. The boar his head, as I you say,
He takes his leave and goeth his way,
Gone after the Twelfth day,
                                With Hey!

4. Then comes in the second course with mickle3 pride,
The cranes, the herons, the bitterns, by their side
To partridges and the plovers, the woodcocks, and the snipe,
                                With Hey!

5. Larks in hot show ladies for to pick,
Good drink thereto, luscious and fine,
Blwet of Allemaine,4 Romnay,5 and wine,
                                With Hey!

6. Good brewed ale and wine, dare I well say,
The boar his head with mustard armèd so gay,
Furmity for pottage, with venison fine,
And the umbles of the doe and all that ever comes in,
Capons well baked, with the pieces of the roe,
Raisins of currants, with other spices mo.6
                                With Hey!


1. This word is not in any Glossary.  Return

2. Dish. Return

3. Much. Return

4. German wines. Return

5. A Spanish wine. Return

6. More. Return

Husk's Note:

This is the earliest known carol of the kind [e.g., Boar's Head Carols]. It is contained in a manuscript of the fifteenth century.

Brogyntyn ii.1
Formerly known as the Porkington Manuscript, #10, f 202 r.

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru
The National Library of Wales

Porkington-10-f202r-1.jpg (223186 bytes) Porkington-10-f202r-2.jpg (224553 bytes)

Also found in Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861)

The following is, perhaps, the most ancient of all the Boar's Head Carols. It is preserved in a manuscript of the fifteenth century. It has been remarked, that, in spite of the invitations contained in these Carols to partake of the "first mess," the Boar's Head, it is conjectured, was little else but a show dish ; for, in all the allusions to it, mention is only made of one head being served at each feast, though, even were the number greater, it could hardly have been sufficient to have yielded a mouthful a-piece to the numerous guests who were generally present at these entertainments. Between the courses the minstrels played and sang, the jesters cracked their smartest jokes, and practised their most extravagant antics ; and I dare say, the famous Dance of Fools was not unfrequently performed at this particular juncture, before the attention of the guests came to be directed to the more exciting business which was so soon to follow.

Editor's Note: Sylvester gives the first line as "The boar's head in hand I bring." There were sufficient differences between these two versions that Sylvester's version is given separately: The Boar's Head In Hand I Bring.

Note that Hugh Keyte, an editor of The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) believes that "Joshua Sylvester" is a pseudonym for a collaboration between William Sandys (1792-1874) and William Henry Husk (1814-1887). See Appendix 4.

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 257 as The Boar's Head In Hand I Bring.”

Rickert gives the following for line 2 of the burden:

“The boar's head is armed Gay”

Rickert gives the following for line 3, verse 3:

    “Gone after the Twelfth till fit day,”

Note: The “Twelfth Day” is January 6th (Epiphany, the last day of the Christmas-tide in some traditions.).

Ricker's note concerning Second Course in Verse 4:

“All these things are mentioned in cookery books and directions for carving between the days of Henry IV and James I. Some of them, as bruet of Allmayne and frumenty, were especially associated with Christmas cheer.” (page 301)

Rickert's note concerning the third line of the fifth verse (“Blwet of Allmayne”):

For bruet of Allmayne, i.e., German stew.”

Rickert, verse 6:

“Good bread, ale and wine, dare I well say,
The boar's head with mustard armed go gay;
Frumenty to pottage, with venison fine,
And the humbles of the doe, and all that ever comes in;
Capons ybaked with the pieces of the roe,
Raisins and currants, with other spices mo.”

Ricker's note concerning “raisins and currants” in the last line of the sixth verse:

Literally, raisins of currants, the common expression of the time, meaning originally, raisins of Corinth.”

Also found in Christmas In Art And Song: A Collection of Songs, Carols and Descriptive Poems, Relating To The Festival of Christmas (New York: The Arundel Printing and Publishing Co., 1879).

For "With garland gay in porttoring," this volume gives "With garlands gay encircling," noting that the word “Porttorying” is a word not explained in any glossary. At “the first mess” it is noted “That is, 'the first dish.'”

This version follows that found in Rickert.

Also found in Richard Greene, ed., A Selection of English Carols. Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1962, #32, p. 91, citing Balliol College, Oxford, MS. 354, XVI cent.:

Capus apri refero,
Resonens laudes Domino.

The boris hed in hones I brynge,
With garlondes gay and byrdes syngyne;
I pray you all, helpe me to synge,
    Qui estes in convivio.

The boris hede, I understone,
Ys cheff servyce in all this londe;
Whersoever it may be fonde,
    Servitur cum sinapio.

The boris hede, I dare well say,
Anon after the (Twelfth) Day
He taketh his leve and goth away,
    Exivit tunc de patria.

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