The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Modryb Marya Aunt Mary

A Christmas Chant


Words: Robert Stephen Hawker, 1838

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 287-8.

1. Now, of all the trees by the king's highway,
    Which do you love the best?
O! the one that is green upon Christmas Day,
    The bush with the bleeding breast.
Now the holly with her drops of blood for me:
For that is our dear Aunt Mary's tree.

2. Its leaves are sweet with our Saviour's Name
    'Tis a plant that loves the poor:
Summer and winter it shines the same
    Beside the cottage door.
O! the holly with her drops of blood for me:
For that is our kind Aunt Mary's tree.

3. 'Tis a bush that the birds will never leave:
    They sing in it all day long;
But sweetest of all upon Christmas Eve
    Is to hear the robin's song.
'Tis the merriest sound upon earth and sea:
For it comes from our own Aunt Mary's tree.

4. So, of all that grow by the king's highway,
    I love that tree the best;
'Tis a bower for the birds upon Christmas Day,
    The bush of the bleeding breast.
O! the holly with her drops of blood for me:
For that is our sweet Aunt Mary's tree.

Note: Dr. Rickert does not identify who "Aunt Mary" was.

Also found in A. H. Bullen, A Christmas Garland (London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), pp. 71-2, who adds the following note at page 257: "The figure of the noble-hearted vicar of Morwenstow stands out with striking picturesqueness. Had he been a border-minstrel in the old tumultuous days, he would surely have written many a ballad that the world would not willingly let die. His poems are few and unequal; the best are singularly precious."

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