The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Boar's Head In Hand Bring I

Words and Music: English Traditional

An Early Version
Compare: The boar’s head in hand bring I

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

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

Caput Apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino.

1. The boar's head in hand bring I,
With garlands gay and rosemary;
I pray you all sing merrily,
    Qui estis in convivio.

2. The boar's head, I understand,
Is the chief service in this land;
Look wherever it be found.
    Servite cum cantico.

3. Be glad, lords, both more or less,
    For this hath ordained our steward
To cheer you all this Christmas,
    The boar's head with mustard.

Translations of the Latin from Adams, Round About Our Coal Fire (ca. 1860)

W. H. Davenport Adams provided these handy Latin translations for those of us who were unable to take a course of study in this ancient tongue.

1. Quot estis in convivio. = Ye who are now at the feast.
2. Caput Apri defero | Reddens laudes Domino. - I bring the boar's head, returning praise to the Lord.
3. Let us servire cantico. = Let us serve it with a song.
4. In Reginensi Atrio. = In the Queen's Hall.

Translations from W. H. Davenport Adams, Round About Our Coal Fire (London: James Blackwood, no date; "1860" written in pen, and the date of the Preface), p. 163.

Husk's Note:

This carol is contained on a single leaf, all that is known of the collection of which it formed part, which formerly belonged to Thomas Hearne, the antiquary, and is now preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Fortunately, this leaf contains the colophon, which runs thus: -- "Thus endeth the Christmasse carolles, newely inprinted at Londō, in the fletestrete, at the sygne of the sonne, by Wynkyn de Worde. The yere of our lorde M.D.xxi." The carol is entitled, "A caroll bringyng in the bores heed."

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914).

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), p. 170, stating "From Ritson's Ancient Songs, where it is stated to be from Wynkyn de Worde's Christmasse Carols, 1521." Bullen adds the following note from 267:

"There is still another Boar’s-head Carol, in addition to those in pp. 170—2. Ritson first printed it (from Add. MS. 5665, the valuable folio which he presented to the British Museum)

    Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell,
    Tidings good I think to tell.
The boar’s head that we bring here
Betokeneth a prince without peer,
Is born this day to buy us dear,
Nowell.

A boar is a sovran beast,
And acceptable in every feast,
So mote this lord be to most and least,
Nowell.

This boar’s head we bring with song,
In worship of him that thus sprung
Of a virgin to redress all wrong,
Nowell.”

Editor's Note: See: The Boar's Head, That We Bring Here, with notes. See also Ritson's notes under The Bores Heed In Hand Bring I.

Artwork by John A. Hows from Christmas In Art And Song. New York: The Arundel Printing and Publishing Company, 1879.

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