The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Bring Us Home Good Ale, Sir

For Twelfth Night

Words and Music: Traditional English
"of or about the time of Henry VI. and is given from MS. Harl. 541."

Compare: Bryne Us In No Browne Bred (Thomas Wright, 1847)
Bring Us In Good Ale, And Bring Us In Good Ale (Chambers and Sidgwick, 1907)
Bring Us In Good Ale (Edith Rickert, 1914)
See generally Wassailing - Notes On The Songs

Source: Joseph Ritson, "Dissertation on Ancient Song and Music", Ancient Songs From The Time of King Henry The Third To The Revolution (London: J. Johnson, 1790), pp. xxxiv - xxxv.

Bryng us home good ale, sir, bryng us home good ale,
And for our der Lady love, brynge us home good ale.

Brynge us home no beff, sir, for that ys full of bones,
But brynge home good ail i-nough, for I love wyle that. (Sic)
                                                                But, &c.

Brynge us home no wetyn bred, for that is full of braund,
Nothyr no ry brede, for that yt ys of yt same.
                                                                But, &c.

Brynge us home no porks, sir, for yt ys very fat,
Nethyr no barly brede, for nethyr lovys I yt.
                                    But bryng us home good ale.

Bryng us home no muttun, sir, for yt ys togh and lene,
Nethyr no trypys, for they be seldyn clene.
                                                       But, bryng, &c.

Bryng us home no vele, sir, for yt will not dur,
But bryng us home good ale I nogh to drynke by the fyr.
                                                                But, &c.

Bryng us home no sydyr, nor no palde wyne,
For and thou do thow shalt have Crysts curse and myne.
                                                                But, &c.

Editor's Note.

Note that yt  would be transcribed as "that," as the "y" letter is being substituted for the lower-case Thorn character (ž). In the second line of the last verse, I substituted "thou" for yu. The word "sir" was substituted for a character set that this font does not include.

Reprinted by Thomas Wright in his notes to Bryne Us In No Browne Bred. He wrote:

This is a much better and more perfect copy of a curious drinking song which had already been printed by Ritson (Dissertation on Ancient Songs and Music, p. xxxiv) from MS. Harl. 541, fol. 214 v0., written in the reign of Henry VI. .... In the Harl. MS. it is not accompanied with the music notes, as here; they appeared of sufficient interest to be engraved for the present volume.

He then reproduced the entire text.

William Chappell had pretty much the same feeling. He wrote:

An inferior copy of this song, without music, is in Harl. M.S., No. 541, from which it has been printed in Ritson's Ancient Songs, p. xxxiv. and xxxv.

The following account is from William Chappell, The Ballad Literature and Popular Music of the Olden Time (London: Chappell & Co., 1859), pp. 41-43:

A curious collection of the songs and Christmas carols of this reign (Henry VI.) have been printed recently by the Percy Society. (Songs and Carols, No. 73.)

The editor of the MS. (Mr. T. Wright) observes that “The great variations in the different copies of the same song, show that they were taken down from oral recitation, and had often been preserved by memory among minstrels, who were not unskilful at composing, and who were not only in the habit of, voluntarily or involuntarily, modifying the songs as they passed through their hands, and adding or omitting stanzas, but of making up new songs by stringing together phrases and lines, and even whole stanzas from the different compositions which were imprinted on their memories.”

But what renders the manuscript peculiarly interesting, is, that it contains the melodies of some of the songs as well as the words. From this it appears that the same tune was used for different words. At page 62 is a note, which in modern spelling is as follows: “This is the tune for the song following; if so be that ye will have another tune, it may he at your pleasure, for I have set all the song.” The words of the carol, “Nowell, Nowell,” (Noel) are written under the notes, but the wassail song that follows, and for which the tune was also intended, is of a very opposite character, “Bryng us in good ale.” I have printed the first verse of each under the tune, but it requires to be sung more quickly for the wassail song than for the carol.

We should not think, however, that Ritson held this carol in high regard. Quite the opposite, as we can see from his comments. On pages xxxiii-xxxiv, he wrote:

The songs made use of by these wassailers would not, it is presumed, be remarkable for delicacy or elegance; but, whatever they were, it might afford some little satisfaction to be acquainted with them.

To this, he added the following "footnote:

Will the reader pardon the insertion of the only specimen that has occurred, and which, as Dr. Johnson has somewhere observed, "the merriment is very gross, and the sentiments very worthless?"

He then appended the above carol, "Bryng vs home good ale, sir, ....

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