The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Gouty Carol

For Christmas

Words: Li a proun de gent

English Translation by the Rev. J. O'Connor

Music: A Provençal Noël.

Source: Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #80, pp. 4-5.

1. There's many folk
Agait o' pilgrim errand,
There's many folk
Away to Bethlehem.
I'd be with them,
I'm sure I have the courage,
I'd be with them
If only I could walk.


My leg is aching worse!
Out and saddle, out and saddle.
My leg is aching worse!
Out and saddle my old horse.

2. Shepherds awake
Out there upon the mountain
Shepherds awake
Have seen a messenger.
He cried them: Ware!
Go over to the valley.
He cried them: Ware!
The Son of God is born!
My leg is aching worse! &c.

3. Yon hefty brutes
That go a-caterwauling
Take off their boots
And pad it fair and soft.
If I catch up,
(They turn, they hear me bawling)
When I catch up
I'll give 'em fair and soft.
My leg is aching worse! &c.

3. Horse, you're a screw,
Not worth the five brass pennies
I gave for you
Last Martinmas's fair.
If you ate road
As well as you eat fodder
Ho! If you could
I'd ride you to the war!
My leg is aching worse! &c.

4. When I have seen
The Son of God the Father,
When I have seen
The King of Paradise,
And when I have been
And hail'd His virgin-other
Look you! This pain
Will vanish in a trice.
My leg is aching worse! &c.

Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #80, pp. 4-5.

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Note from Rev. Terry:

The words of this carol would appear to have been highly popular judging by the number of tunes with which they are associated. No less than four are in Saboly's collection.

Editor's Notes:

Rev. Terry's reference to Saboly is, I believe, to Micolau Saboly, Recueil de noëls provençaux (Avignon: L. Aubanel, 1839). It is available at Google Books.

The reference in verse 3 to “Martinmas's fair” refers to St. Martin's Mass, the feast of St. Martin of Tours on Nov. 11. It was at this time of year that harvests were concluded and animals were slaughtered and preserved for winter consumption (hence “Martinmas Beef”). Fairs were held during which laborers sought new employment.

It also heralded an early form of Advent, in that it was a 40-day fast prior to Christmas (excluding Sundays). It was known as St. Martin's Lent, St. Martin's Fast, or the “forty days of St. Martin” (in Latin, "Quadragesima Sancti Martini"). At some times and in some places, a mini-Carnival was celebrated just prior to St. Martin's feast day, similar to the Carnival celebrated before the beginning of Lent.

Later, according to experts, St. Martin's Lent was shortened to the four Sundays of the modern Advent, beginning on the Sunday nearest November 30, the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle.

Historically, the 40 days of fasting prior to Christmas were followed by the 40 days of feasting after Christmas, concluding on Feb. 2, the feast of the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. This feast is popularly known as Candlemas, because candles for the next year were blessed on this day.

St. Martin's day was widely celebrated, and special traditions arose in many countries, many of which continue to be celebrated today.

Reformer Fr. Martin Luther, DD, an Augustinian monk and university professor, was born on Nov. 10, was baptized on Nov. 11, and was named for St. Martin.

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