The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Bring Us In Good Ale

For Twelfth Night

Words: Temp. Henry VI
Bodleian Library. MS. Eng. Poet. e. 1. XV Cent.

Music: English Traditional
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 245.

Compare: Bring Us Home Good Ale, Sir (Ritson, 1790)
Bryne Us In No Browne Bred (Thomas Wright, 1847)
Bring Us In Good Ale, And Bring Us In Good Ale (Chambers and Sidgwick, 1907)
See generally Wassailing - Notes On The Songs

Bring us in good ale, and bring us in good ale;
For our Blessed Lady's sake, bring us in good ale.

1. Bring us in no brown bread, for that is made of bran,
Nor bring us in no white bread, there therein is no game;
    But bring us in good ale.

2. Bring us in no beef, for there is many bones,
But bring us in good ale, for that goes down at once;
    And bring us in good ale.

3. Bring us in no bacon, for that is passing fat,
But bring us in good ale, and give us enough of that;
    And bring us in good ale.

4. Bring us in no mutton, for that is often lean,
Nor bring us in no tripes, for they be seldom clean;
    And bring us in good ale.

5. Bring us in no eggs, for there are many shells,
But bring us in good ale, and give us nothing else;
    And bring us in good ale.

6. Bring us in no butter, for therein are many hairs;
Nor bring us in no pig's flesh, for that will make us boars;
    And bring us in good ale.

7. Bring us in no puddings, for therein is all God's good;
Nor bring us in no venison, for that is not for our blood;
    And bring us in good ale.

8. Bring us in no capon's flesh, for that is often dear;
Nor bring us in no duck's flesh, for they slobber in the mere;
    And bring us in good ale.

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Note from Rickert:

"In the MS. this song is preceded by the carol beginning,

    "Nowell, nowell, nowell,
    This is the salutation of the angel Gabriel."

"(cf. Part I, p. 35: Nowell, nowell, nowell, nowell) and the note: "This is the tune for the song following; if so be that ye will have another tune, it may be at your pleasure, for I have set all the song."

Also found in Thomas Wright, ed., Festive Songs Principally of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (London: Percy Society, 1848), pp. 16-17, who noted "There is also a copy, not so complete, in Harl. MS., 541, and printed in Ritson's Ancient Songs." He added: "Ibid, p. 63," but this is not an altogether clear reference. The note on p. 63 is to a carol "The Leather Bottel," first line: "T'was God above that made all things," which had the following note at the top:

"There are several copies of the following. Chappell has one, (see his valuable Collection, ii, 53), and he says there is one in the British Museum, at least two hundred years old: there is also one in D'Urfey's Pills, vol. iii, 247-9, and in Roxburghe Ballads, British Museum, ii, 257.

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 187-8, with the note: "From Wright's Songs and Carols (Percy Society). An inferior version (from MS. Harl. 541) was printed by Ritson."

Editor's Note.  Concerning Bullen's note, see the excerpt from Ritson at the bottom of Bryng Us In No Browne Bred (link opens in a new window).

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 be 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."

Chappell provides the following lyrics:

1. Bring us in no brown bread, for that is made of bran,
Nor bring us in no white bread, for therein is no gain,
    But bring us in good ale, and bring us in good ale;
    For our blessed Lady’s sake, bring us in good ale.

2. Bring us in no beef, for there is many bones,
But bring us in good ale, for that go’th down at once. And bring, &c.

3. Bring us in no bacon, for that is passing fat,
But bring us in good ale, and give us enough of that. And bring, &c.

4. Bring us in no mutton, for that is passing lean,
Nor bring us in no tripes, for they be seldom clean. But bring, &c.

5. Bring us in no eggs, for there are many shells,
But bring us in good ale, and give us nothing else. But bring, &c.

6. Bring us in no butter, for therein are many hairs,
Nor bring us in no pig’s flesh, for that will make us bears. But bring, &c.

7. Bring us in no puddings, for therein is all God’s good,
Nor bring us in no venison, that is not for our blood. But bring, &c.

8. Bring us in no capon’s flesh, for that is often dear,
Nor bring us in no duck’s flesh, for they slobber in the mere. [mire]

9. But bring us in good ale, and bring us in good ale,
For our blessed lady’s sake, bring us in good ale.

He also notes: "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."

Again, see the excerpt from Ritson at the bottom of Bryng Us In No Browne Bred (link opens in a new window).

Also found in Henry Vizetelly, Christmas With The Poets (London: David Bogue, 1851), who notes that "Good ale, however, like most other things when taken in excess, is attended by certain inconveniences, as the following song, who forms an appropriate moral to the two preceding ones [this and A Bone, God Wot!], will serve to explain:" Ale Makes Many A Man To Stick At A Brier.

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