The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Lestenytȝ, lordynges, bothe grete and smale

For Christmas

Words and Music: English Traditional

Note: Because Middle English contains letters not found in modern English, I've used a special font, "Junicode" created by Professor Peter S. Baker, Professor of English, University of Virginia on some pages.  I will note on the individual carol's page which ones need this font. You can obtain a copy of this font from his website Old English at the University of Virginia (select "Windows TrueType," or right click here, and then select "Save File As" to save a copy of the zipped file to your computer).  This font must be downloaded and installed before these pages will display accurately.

Source: Thomas Wright, Songs and Carols from a Manuscript in the British Museum of the Fifteenth Century (London: Printed by Richards for The Warton Club, 1856), Hymn XLVI, pp. 66-68.

A, a, a, a,
Nunc gaudet ecclesia.

Lestenytȝ lordynges, bothe grete and smale,
I xal ȝou telyn a wonder tale,
How holy cherche was brow[t] in bale,
    Cum magna injuria.

The greteste clerk of al this lond,
Of Cauntyrbery, ȝe understond,
Slawyn he was [be] wykkyd hond,
    Demonis potencia.

Knytes kemyn fro Hendry kyng,
Wykkyd men, withoute lesyng,
Ther they dedyn a wonder thing,
    Ferventes insania.

They sowtyn hym al abowtyn,
Withine the paleys and withoutyn
Of Jhesu Cryst hadde they non dowte,
    In sua malicia.

They openyd here mowthis wonder wyde,
To Thomeys they spokyn mekyl pryde,
" Here, tretour, thou xalt abyde,
    Ferens mortis tedia."

Thomas answerid with mylde chere,
" If ȝe wil me slon in this manere,
Let hem pasyn alle tho arn here,
    Sine contumilia."

Beforn his aunter he knelyd adoun,
Ther they gunne to paryn his crown ;
He sterdyn the braynys up and doun,
    Optans celi gaudia.

The turmentowres abowtyn sterte,
With dedly wondys thei gunne him hurte ;
Thomas deyid in moder cherche,
    Pergens ad celestia.

Moder, clerk, wedue, and wyf,
Worchepe ȝe Thomeys in al ȝour lyf ;
For lij. poyntes he les his lyf,
    Contra regis consilia.


The reference to "lij. poyntes" in the third line of the last stanza refers to a frequently heard song and admonition concerning how to live one's life: A Dozen of Points (Euing 126) (First Line: The gift is smal, a dozen of points).

Editor's Note:

Other versions of this carol on this website:

"Listen, Lordings, Both Great and Small" (Burden: A, a, a, a, Nunc gaudet ecclesia):

There are other carols on this web site with similar first lines or burdens, although they have very separate themes and lyrics, including:

"Listen, Lordings, Both Old and Young"

This Rose is Railed on a Ryse, Text Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 11, from Ms. Selden B 26, folio 9v.

"Listen, Lordings, both leve and dear" (Nowell, -ell, both Old and Young):

"Listen, Lordings, Both More and Less" (Burden: Puer nobis natus est de Virgine Maria)

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