The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

God Bless You, Merry Gentlemen

For Christmas

Words: English Traditional

Music: "Tidings of Comfort and Joy" as found in "The overthrow of proud Holofernes, and the
Triumph of virtuous Queen Judith," the Halliwell Collection of Broadsides, No. 263, Chetham

Source: Cecil J. Sharp, English Folk-Carols (London: Novello & Co., Ltd., 1911), pp. 13-6.

See: God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen - Notes

1. God bless you, merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay;
Remember Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
To save poor souls from Satan's power,
That long have gone astray ―
    Which brings tidings of comfort and joy,
        Joy and joy,
    Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.

2. The shepherds brought these tidings
And rejoiced much in mind;
They left their flocks a-feeding
In tempest, storm and wind.
Straightway they went to Bethlehem
The Son of God to find ―
    Which brings tidings of comfort and joy,
        Joy and joy,
    Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.

3. Straightway they went to Bethlehem,
Where our sweet Saviour lay;
They found Him in a manger,
Where oxen feed with hay;
The Blessed Virgin Mary
Kneeling to the Lord did pray ―
    Which brings tidings of comfort and joy,
        Joy and joy,
    Which brings tidings of comfort and joy.

4. God bless the Master of this house
And Mis-ter-ess also;
God bless the little children
That round the table go;
God bless their friends and kindred,
That come from far and near;
    May the Lord send a happy New Year,
        Happy New Year,
    May the Lord send a happy New Year.

Sheet Music From Sharp
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Notes from Sharp, p. 63.

Sung by Mr. Tom Ison, al Ely.

Mr. Ison told me that he used to sing this carol, in company with other singers, at Christmas time.

In Warwickshire the carol singers would sometimes sing a single stanza of this carol by way of farewell at the conclusion of their programme, as follows

God bless you, merry gentlemen, as you sit by the fire,
And pity us poor travellers that trudges through the mire
God bless your friends, your kindred, that lives both far and near
God send you a happy Christmas and a bright New Year.

Mr. Ison could only remember the words of the first stanza. The remaining lines in the text are from a version sung to me by another Ely singer, Mr. Robert Feast, and are printed without emendation.

The carol is, of course, well known. The tune, however, usually given in the carol books, is in the ćolian, not dorian mode. The air is a favourite one with English folk-singers and is often used in Wassail songs (see Folk-Songs from Somerset, No. 129). A very beautiful mixolydian variant was sung to me by a Warwickshire singer.

It will be seen that the more usual “God rest you merry, gentlemen“ is rendered in the Cambridgeshire version “ God bless you, merry gentlemen,” where merry “is an adjective qualifying “ gentlemen.” The old expression God rest you merry “ has, apparently, become obsolete.

For other versions of the words see Sandys’ Christmas Carols and broadsides by Russell, Bloomer, Thompson and others.

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