The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

My Heart Of Gold

For Christmas

Words and Music: Unknown
Huntington Library. Christmas carolles newely Inprynted (Richard Kele) c. 1550.
Compare: My lady went to Caunterbury

Source: William Henry Husk, Songs of the Nativity (London: John Camden Hotten, 1868)

My heart of gold as true as steel
As I me leaned on a bough;
In faith but if ye love me well
Lord so Robin lough.1

1. My lady went to Canterbury
The Saint to be her boot;2
She met with Kate of Malmsbury
Why shepyst3 thou in a apple root?
            My heart, &c.

2. Nine mile to Michelmas,
Our dame began to brew,
Michael set his mare to grass,
Lord so fast it snew.4
            My heart, &c.

3. For you, love, I brake my glass,
Your gown is furred with blue;
The devil is dead: for there I was,
I wis it is full true.
            My heart, &c.

4. And if ye sleep the cock will crow,
True heart, think what I may,
Jake-a-napes will make a mow,5
Look, who dare say him nay?
            My heart, &c.

5. I pray you have me now in mind,
I tell you of the matter,
He blew his horn against the wind;
The crow goeth to the water.
            My heart, &c.

6. Yes I tell you mickle more,
The cat lieth in the cradle,
I pray you keep true heart in store,
A penny for a ladle.
            My heart, &c.

7. I swear by St. Katherine of Kent,
The goose goeth to the green,
All our dog's tail is brent,6
It is not as it ween.7
            My heart, &c.

8. Tyrlery lorpyn the laverock sung,
So merrily pipes the sparrow:
The cow brake lose, the rope ran home,
Sir, God give you good morrow.
            My heart, &c.


1. Laughed. Return

2. Help. Return

3. Hidest. Return

4. Snowed. Return

5. Mock or Face. Return

6. Burnt. Return

7. Guess. Return

Husk's Note:

This singular carol is derived (through the medium of the "Bibliographical Miscellanies" of the late Dr. Bliss,) from the collection of Christmas Carols printed by Richard Kele about 1550. It is probably the earliest of a class of pieces which were in great favour a century or so afterwards; and many specimens of which may be seen in Percy's "Religues of Ancient English Poetry," and Ritson's "Ancient Songs and Ballads," under the denomination of "Mad Songs;" in which the incoherent utterances of a maniac are made the vehicle of amusement. The present is the only instance of such a production being found in a collection of carols, although none can doubt the power of such a disconnected rhapsody to excite the boisterous merriment of a group of Christmas revellers, forgetful of all care and reflection, and bent only on amusement. The reader will observe the introduction into this carol of a device for raising a laugh frequently resorted to by modern Farceurs, viz. the interchanging the position of two of the words in a sentence; in this instance the words cow and rope in the line

"The cow brake loose, the rope ran home." [Verse 8, above]

The allusions to the Canterbury Pilgrimage and St. Katherine of Kent show the carol to be of much earlier date than the time of publication. It is believed that it has never been reproduced (except by Dr. Bliss) since its original production.

Excerpt of notes from Richard Greene, A Selection of English Carols (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962):

The words and first stanza occur in a round or canon in Ravenscroft's Pammelia (1609)....

The nonsense of this delightful piece is free-ranging, and it is hardly to be classified as a 'lying song' as Utley suggests (p. 203).

The reference is to Francis Lee Utley, The Crooked Rib, Ohio State University Contributions in Language and Literature, No. 10. Columbus, 1944.

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 143, who comments at page 156 "This is simply a nonsense rhyme or medley."

Editor's Note:

This is one of the carols that were first printed by Richard Kele, Christmas Carolles Newly Inprynted (circa 1550), reprinted in Philip Bliss, Biographical Miscellanies (1813), and included in Edward Bliss Reed, Christmas Carols of the 16th Century, Including Kele's Christmas Carolles Newly Inprynted (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932).

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