The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

A, a, a, a,
Nunc gaudet ecclesia

For Christmas

Words: English Traditional, Fifteenth Century
British Museum. MS. Sloane. 2593. XV Century.

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 129.

A, a, a, a,
Nunc gaudet ecclesia

1. Listeneth, lordings, both great and small,
I shall you tell a wonder tale,
How Holy Church was brought in bale,
    Cum magna injuria.

2. The greatest clerk in all this land,
Thomas of Canterbury, I understand,
Slain he was by wicked hand,
    Demonis1 potencia.

3. Knights camen fro Henry2 king,
Wicked men, without leasing,3
There they diden a wonder thing,
    Ferventes insania.4

4. They sought him all about,
Within the palace and without;
Of Jesu Christ had they no doubt,5
    In sua malicia.

5. They opened their mouths wonder wide,
To Thomas they spaken mickle pride,
"Traitor, here, thou shalt abide,
    Ferens mortis tedia."

6. Thomas answered with milde cheer,
"If ye will me slay in this manner,
Let them pass, all that are here,
    Sine contumel(i)a."

7. Beforn his alter he kneeled adown,
There they began to pare his crown;
They stirred the braines up so down,6
    Optans celi gaudia.

8. The tormentors about (they) start
With deadly wounds they gam him hurt;
Thomas died in Mother-Church,
    Pergens ad celestia.

9. Mother, clerk, widow, and wife,
Worship ye Thomas in all your life;
For fifty-two points7 he lost his life,
    Contra regis consilia.


1. Another reading: malorum. Return

2. Elsewhere, Harry and Hendry. Return

3. Lie, i.e., truly. Return

4. Elsewhere: Per regis imperia. Return

5. Fear. Return

6. Upside down. Return

7. The Constitutions of Clarendon, 1164. Return

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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