The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Boris Hede In Hond I Bryng

For Christmas

Words and Music: English Traditional
Found in The Porkington Manuscript, #10, f 202 r; now referred to as Brogyntyn MS ii.1.
Communicated to the authors by Sir Frederick Madden

Source: Thomas Wright and James Orchard Halliwell, eds., Reliquiæ Antiquæ. Scraps from Ancient Manuscripts. Vol. 2 of 2. (London: John Russell Smith, 1845), p. 30, and
Thomas Wright,
Specimens of Old Christmas Carols Selected from Manuscripts and Printed Books (London: The Percy Society, 1841), pp. 3-4.

See generally: The Boar's Head Carols


From MS. Porkington, No. 10. sm, 4to. sec. 15. on paper.
This Song or Carol differs from the two on the same subject printed in Ritson's Ancient Songs, p. 126.

Hey, hey, hey, hey, the borrys hede is armyd gay.

1. The boris hede in hond I bryng,
With garlond gay in porttoryng,
I pray yow alle with me to synge.
                                With hay.

2. Lordys, knyõttes, and skyers,
Persons, prystis, and wycars,
The boris hede ys the furt mes,
                                With hay.

3. The boris hede, as I yow say,
He takis his leyfe, and gothe his way,
Gone after the xij. theyl ffyt day,
                                With hay.

4. Then commys in the secunde kowrs with mykylle pryde,
The crannus, the heyrrouns, the bytteris by ther syde,
The pertrychys and the plowers, the wodcokus and the snyt,
                                With hay.

5. Larkys in hot schow, ladys for to pyk,
Good drynk therto, lycyus and fyne,
Blwet of allmayne, romnay and wyin,
                                With hay.

6. Gud bred alle and wyin dare I welle say,
The boris hede with musterd armyd soo gay ;
Furmante to pottage, with wennissun fyne,
And the hombuls of the dow, and all that ever commis in ;
Cappons i-bake, with the pesys of the roow,
Reysons of corrons, with odyre spysis moo.

It ends abruptly thus at the bottom of a page.

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)


The two carols in Ritson's Ancient Songs that are on the same topic are:

Above the carol in Wright's Specimens of Old Christmas Carols is the following: "From the Porkington MS. of the fifteenth century, communicated by Sir Frederick Madden to the Reliquiæ Antiquæ, vol. ii. p. 30. It appears to end imperfectly." In the Preface to Vol. 1, Reliquiæ Antiquæ, which is dated Dec. 30th, 1840, the editors wrote that Sir Frederick Madden was among those who materially assisted in the course of the present volume. The Preface to Specimens volume is dated December, 1841.

This carol has the odd distinction of having been first printed in one volume (Specimens of Old Christmas Carols, 1841) with attribution being given to a second volume that was published subsequently to the first (Reliquiæ Antiquæ, Vol. 2, 1845). The versions are identical (that is not always the case).

The Porkington Manuscript is now referred to as Brogyntyn MS ii.1, located at Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru (The National Library of Wales) in Aberystwyth. It is discussed on the page A Middle English Miscellany (BROGYNTYN MS ii.1). In part, it is described as:

This mid-fifteenth-century miscellany of prose and verse, formerly known as Porkington 10, is one of the most important medieval English manuscripts at the National Library. Written on paper and parchment, it contains a remarkable variety of texts, mainly in Middle English though a few are in Latin. These cover subjects from political prophecy to instructions for computing the position of the moon, from weather lore to medicine, from an Arthurian poem relating the adventures of Sir Gawain to saints' lives, and from love poetry and drinking songs to carols.

Richard Leighton Greene cites his source as "Lord Harlech, Brogyntyn, Oswestry. MS. Porkington 10. XV Century." The Early English Carols (1932), Carol 135.

Also found in Furnivall, The Babees Book, p. 397, citing as its source the Porkington MS, No. 10, fol. 202 (circa 1460-1470). In the footnotes to this carol, Furnivall writes that “this carol is printed in Reliq. Antiq., vol. ii, and is inserted here – copied from and read with the M.S. – to fill up a blank page. The title (“the Boris hede furst”) is mine.”

To the phrase "Larkys in hood schow," Furnivall, notes “stew.”

To the phrase “blwet of allmayn,” Furnivall notes that “allmayn” is a wine. He further notes that “Recipes for the dish Brouet of Almayne (H. O.), Brewet of Almony, Breuet de Almonde, are in Household Ordinances, p. 456. Forme of Cury, p. 29, and Liber Cure Cocorum, p. 12.” These recipes are available in other Fifteenth Century cookbooks as well.

He also notes that the recipe for Potage de Frumenty is in Household Ordinances, p. 425. As of Feb. 10, 2013, “Household Ordinances” has not yet been scanned and posted to either Google Books or the Internet Archive.

Sylvester noted:

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. See: Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861)

In short, the presentation of the head was little more than ceremonial. After the Head was presented, it would seem likely that the rest of the roasted pig was carved and served being the remainder of a fit first course. We still do this today anytime that we go to a barbeque (baby back ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, etc.), have a pork roast for dinner, a ham sandwich for lunch, or bacon (with eggs, etc.) for breakfast.

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.).

Rickert'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 “Reysons of corrons” in the last line of the sixth verse:

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

One unusual aspect of this carol is the stark difference between the first three verses and the last three verses. Other have observed, and I agree, that the first three verses were a separate carol to which was appended the balance of the song, as a sort of expansion on the description of the feast. An entirely different song, with a different meter, would be necessary for verses 4 and 5; verse 6 is completely different from the preceding five (although it might be stretched to match the tune and meter of verses 4 and 5, doubled).

Also found in William Sandys, Christmas-tide, Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music (London: John Russell Smith, 1852), #12, pp. 230-1, virtually identical to the text found above. No notes to the carol, however, he does have a brief discussion of the boar's head carol in his history: The Boars Head Feast.

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