The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Masters in This Hall

For Christmas

Version 2
Compare: Masters in This Hall - Version 1
Alternate Title: Nowell, Sing We Clear

English Lyrics by William Morris, 1834-1896

Tune: French dancing tune adapted and arranged for four voices by
Edmund Sedding
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

See: Sedding, ed., Antient Carols for Christmas and Other Tides

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 288-291.

"To Bethlem did they go, the shepherds three;
To Bethlem did they do to see whe'r it were so or no,
    Whether Christ were born or no
        To set men free."

1. Masters in this Hall,
    Hear ye news to-day
Brought from over sea,
    And ever I you pray:

Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!
    Nowell, sing we clear!
Holpen are all folk on earth,
    Born is God's son so dear:
Nowell! Nowell! Nowell!
    Nowell, sing we loud!
God to-day hath poor folk raised
    And cast a-down the proud.

2. Going o'er the hills,
    Through the milk-white snow,
Heard I ewes bleat
    While the wind did blow: Chorus

3. Shepherds many an one
    Sat among the sheep,
No man spake more word
    Than they had been asleep: Chorus

4. Quoth I, "Fellows mine,
    Why this guise sit ye?
Making but dull cheer,
    Shepherds though ye be? Chorus

5. "Shepherds should of right
    Leap and dance and sing,
Thus to see ye sit,
    Is a right strange thing": Chorus

6. Quoth these fellows then,
    "To Bethlem town we go,
To see a mighty lord
    Lie in manger low": Chorus

7. "How name ye this lord,
    Shepherds?' then said I,
"Very God," they said,
    "Come from Heaven high": Chorus

8. Then to Bethlem town
    We went two and two,
And in a sorry place
    Heard the oxen low: Chorus

9. Therein did we see
    A sweet and goodly may
And a fair old man,
    Upon the straw she lay: Chorus

10. And a little child
    On her arm had she,
"Wot ye who this is?"
    Said the hinds to me: Chorus

11. Ox and ass him know,
    Kneeling on their knee,
Wondrous joy had I
    This little babe to see: Chorus

12. This is Christ the Lord,
    Masters be ye glad!
Christmas is come in,
    And no folk should be sad: Chorus

Sheet music from  "Three Christmas Carols (Old French)," Arranged for Four Voices by Edmund Sedding. (London: Novello and Company, Limited; New York: The H. W. Gray Co.), reproduced in The Musical Times and Singing-class Circular, Number 825, Volume 52 (Nov. 1, 1911), printed between pp. 734 and 735.

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The other two carols were A Day, A Day of Glory and Ye Who Walk In Darkness.

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp.80-3. He notes, at page 258, "In Sedding’s “Ancient Christmas Carols” this carol is said to be translated from the French."

Editor's Note:

The original French tune was said to have been included in Raoul Auger Feuillet's 1703 Recueil de contredanse. In 1710, John Essex (d. 1744) published an English translation of Feuillet's work called, For the Further Improvement of Dancing, in which the dance is given as "The Female Saylor."

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There are a number of videos of "The Female Saylor" at YouTube,
including one where the dance is performed to "Masters In The Hall."

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