The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

God Rest 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: God Rest You Merry Gentlemen, Carol I. On Christmas-Day, from "Four Choice Carols for Christmas Holidays," English Broadside Ballad Archive, University of California, Santa Barbara.
The original broadside is from the Roxburghe Collection, 3.452, in the British Library
, Shelfmark C.20.f.9(452).
The estimated date is 1700, according to the editors of the web site.

Source: Four Choice Carols for Christmas Holidays, The English Broadside Ballad Archive, University of California, Santa Barbara, ca. 1700

See Notes to 'God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen'

Being very necessary and proper to be had in all CHRISTIAN FAMILIES.
Roxburghe 3.452


GOD rest you merry Gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay;
Remember Christ our Saviour,
Who was born on Christmas-day,
To save our Souls from Satan's Fold,
Which long time had gone astray.
    And 'tis Tidings of Comfort and Joy.

From him that was our Father,
The Blessed Angel came,
And to the watchful shepherds brought
The Tidings of the same:
That there was born in Bethlehem,
The Son of God by Name,
    And 'tis Tidings, etc.

Fear not, then said God's Angels,
Let nothing you affright,
This Night is born a Saviour,
Of a Virgin pure and bright:
He is able to advance you,
And throw down Satan quite.
    And 'tis Tidings, etc.

The Shepherds at these Tidings,
Rejoiced much in Mind,
And left their Flocks a feeding,
In Tempest, Storm, and Wind:
Then straight they went to Bethlehem,

The son of God to find.
    And 'tis Tidings, etc.

But when they came to Bethlehem,
Whereas our Saviour lay,
They found him in a Manger,
Where Oxen fed on Hay:
Our blessed Lady Kneeling by,
Unto the Lord did pray.
    And 'tis Tidings, etc.

At which the sudden Gladness,
The Shepherds then were fill'd,
When as the Babe of Israel,
Thus when they had beheld:
Before his Mother thus to lie,
The Scripture thus fulfill'd.
    And 'tis Tidings, etc.

Now let me all you intreat,
That are within this Place,
That each dear loving Christian,
The other would embrace;
For the happy Time of Christmas
Is drawing on apace.
    With Tidings and Comfort and Joy.


One of four carols on this Broadside. The carols were:

Also found in  J. Woodfall Ebsworth, ed., The Roxburghe Ballads. Vol. 7. (Hertford : Printed for the Ballad Society by Stephen Austin and Sons, 1871), Carol 1, p. 775, which contains Roxburghe, 3.452.

The Roxburghe Ballads, Vol. 7, p. 775. 

Note By J.W. Ebsworth, pp. 777-778:

No Colophon. Three woodcuts: 2nd, the Madonna and child; between, 1st, St. Matthew, and 3rd, St. John Evangelist. Roxb. has no Colophon, but the second and third of these ditties were printed by J. Millet in a volume of New Carols (Wood's No. 40), in Black-letter, circa 1674, or earlier, and this is the probable date of the originals. Ours is a modern reprint in White-letter. It is a fairly trustworthy version.

Note.—Although the Third Carol, "When bloody Herod reigned King," is mistakenly applied to John the Baptist, instead of concerning the Evangelist's festival, the woodcut was rightly assigned. Two other woodcuts of St. John are given on pp. 778 and 790. The tune to it is, " Oh no, Oh no, not yet" (p. 141); the tune of "In friendly love and unity" is, ' Where is my true love ?' Both these carols are in Wood's New Christmas Carols, 110, art. 5.

The versions reproduced by Sandys in his books published in 1833 and 1852 are different in several respects, including the addition of two verses. See: God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen.

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Compare Bramley and Stainer, Christmas Carols New and Old, First Series, Carol #1, pp. 2-3.

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