The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Merthe Of Alle This Londe

For Christmas

Words: English Traditional from Arch. Selden Ms. B. 26, Bodleian Library, Oxford

Music: Not Stated

Source: E. K. Chambers and F. Sidgwick, eds., Early English Lyrics (London: A. H. Bullen, 1907), #CXLII, p. 241.

The merthe of alle this londe
    Maketh the gode husbonde,
With eringe of his plowe.
    Iblessed be Cristes sonde,
That hath us sent in honde 5
    Merthe and joye enowe.

The plowe gothe mony a gate,
    Bothe erly and eke late,
In winter in the clay,
    Aboute barly and whete, 10
That makethe men to swete.
    God spede the plowe all day !

Browne Morel and Gore
    Drawen the plowe full sore
All in the morweninge ; 15
    Rewarde hem therefore
With a shefe or more
    Alle in the eveninge.

Whan men biginne to sowe,
    Full well here corne they knowe 20
In the mounthe of May.
    However Janiver blowe
Wether hie or lowe,
    God spede the plowe alle way !

Whan men biginnethe to wede 25
The thistle fro the sede
    In somer whan they may,
God lete hem well to spede ;
And longe gode life to lede,
    Alle that for plowe men pray. 30


4. sonde, message.

Notes to CXLII, p. 375.

Selden B. 26. Printed E.B.M., ii. 132 (facsimile, i. plate LXIX).

A poem of 96 lines in Lansdowne 762 has for refrain 'I praye to God, spede wele the plough'. [See: God Spede The Plough.]

It is printed with Pierce the Ploughman's Crede by W. W. Skeat, E.E.T.S., 1867. In Henslowe's Diary (ed. Greg, i. 16) it is recorded that a play called 'god spead the plowe’ was acted 27 December, 1593, and 5 January, 1593-4. On 1 March, 1601, John Harrison entered ‘A booke called God spede the ploughe’ on the Stationers' Register (Arber, iii. 180). For a poem in praise of wheat, see Sloane 2593, Wright, W.C., 38.

3-6 are repeated under the music in the MS.

Extended Citations:

Selden B. 26.
Selden B. 26: Oxford, Bodleian Library, 'Several MSS., apparently bound together after they came into the possession of the library' [in or about 1659] ; ff. 3-33, parchment, 10 1/4 x 7, contains 52 English and Latin carols and songs with music in 2, 3, and 4 parts. Nicholson traces eleven different hands in the music and nine in the words ; Southern English; about 1450. One tune by John Dunstable, who died 1453. Variants of four lyrics and tunes in Trinity College Library, 0. 3. 58 ; including the Song on Agincourt, transcribed hence by or for Samuel Pepys, now in his collection of Ballads, i. 3. Described in E.B.M., i. xx-xxiii, and O.H.M., ii. 133 (from musical point of view).

Editor's Note: Selden Ms. B 26 is available  on-line at Early Manuscripts at Oxford University; see Selden MS B26.

Sir John Stainer, ed., Early Bodleian Music. Sacred and Secular Songs together with other MS. Compositions in the Bodleian Library, Oxford : ranging from about a.d. 1185 to about a.d. 1505. With an Introduction by E. W. B. Nicholson, and Transcriptions into Modern Musical Notation by J. F. R. Stainer and C. Stainer. Volume Two of Two volumes (vol. 1, facsimiles, vol. 2, transcriptions), 1901, p. 107 (facsimile, i. plate XLVII).

The Oxford History of Music
. Edited by W. H. Hadow, 6 vols. First two vols. are Parts I (1901) and II (1905) of 'The Polyphonic Period' by H. Ellis Wooldridge.

Early English Text Society.

Sloane 2593.
Sloane 2593. Paper, 5 3/4 x 4 1/2. Songs and carols, seventy-four in number, of which three are in Latin, and the rest in English. Mainly religious or moral, but some trivial and satirical. Wright considered it to be the song-book of a minstrel (cf. Eng. Poet. e. 1) ; the last folio bears the name ‘Johannes Bardel' or ‘Bradel,' written in the same hand as the rest of the MS. Wright traces one poem to 1362-9, but probably this and others were traditional when written down ; he dates the handwriting temp. Henry VI. According to Bradley-Stratmann, the MS. was written in Warwickshire at the beginning of the XV cent. Variants of some poems appear in Eng. Poet. e. i. Extracts in Ritson (1790), Wright, Carols (1836), and S.L.P., Rel. Ant., and Fehr in Archiv, cvii. 48; Edited complete by Wright for the Warton Club in 1856 ; and by B. Fehr in Archiv, cix. 33 ; who does not print poems extracted as above, but is ignorant of the Warton Club print. Source: Notes, pp. 303-304.

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