The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Now Is The Twelfth Day Ycome

For the Epiphany

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

Source: Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), pp. 112-115.

Reges de Saba venient,
Aurum, tus myrram offerent.

1. Now is the Twelfth Day ycome,
The Father and Son together are nome,1
The Holy Ghost, as they were wone,2
                    In fere.
God send us a good New Year!

2. I will you sing with all my might,
Of a Child so fair in sight,
A maiden him bore this endernight,
                    So still;
As it was his will.

3. Three kingės out of Galilee
Camen to Bethlehem, that city,
For to taken into that see3
                    By night;
It was a full fair sight.

4. As they came forth with their offering,
They met with Herod, that moody king;
He askėd them of their coming,
                    That tide,
And thus to them he said:

5. "Fro whence come ye, kingės three?"
"Out of the East, as thou mayst see,
To seek Him that ever shall be,
                    Through right,
Lord and king of might."

6. "When ye have at that king a-be,
Come again this way by me,
And tell me the sights that (ye) have see;
                    I pray,
Ye go none other way."

7. Of Herod, (of) that moody king,
They took their leave, of old and ying;
And forth they went with their offering
                    In sight,
And there they came by night.

8. When they came into the place
Where Jesu with His mother way,
They made offering with great solace,
                    Not fear,
With gold, incense and myrrh.

9. As they were homeward ywent,
The Father of heaven an angel sent
To those three kings that made present,
                    Ere day,
And thus to them gan say:

10. "My Lord hath warned you of your foe,
By King Herod that ye not go;
For if ye do, he will you slo,4
                    And 'tray,5
Ye go another way."

11. When they came home to their country,
Blithe and glad they were all three
Of the sights that they had see,
                    By night,
Jesu and Mary bright.

12. With treason to us6 gan he sayn,7
He trowed Jesu to have slain;
Into Egypt they went full plain,
                    By side,
Joseph was their guide.

13. Into Bethlehem8 they gan pass,
The star gan shinen in their face,
Brighter than ever shone sun in glass,
                    In land;
Jesu with Mary they found.

14. King Herod he made his vow,
Great plenty of children he slow,9
He meant they should a-been Jesu;
                    I say,
He failėd of his prey.

15. Herod was wode10 in royalty;
He slew children right great plenty
In Bethlehem, that fair city,
                    With strife;
Nor left he none in life.

16. The children of Israel cried, "Wa, wa!"
The mothers of Bethlehem cried, "Ba, ba!"
Herod, that wretch, (he) laughed "A-ah!"
                    And said,
"The King of Jews is dead!"

17 Almighty God in majesty,
In one God Persons Three,
Bring us to Thy bliss that is so free,
                    In fere;
And send us a good New Year!

Reges de Saba venient,
Aurum, tus myrram offerent.

Notes from Rickert:

1. Taken. Return

2. Wont. Return

3. Domain. Return

4. Slay Return

5. Betray. Return

6. Note from Rickert at page 155: "Us. Apparently the Kings are speaking. It would seem as if a stanza had been lost in which they began to relate their journey." Return

7. Say. Return

8. Note from Rickert at page 155: "Into Bethlehem, &c. These lines seem to be misplaced. They fit in between the seventh and eighty stanzas." Return

9. Slew. Return

10. Mad. Return

11. Reges de Saba venient,
Aurum, tus myrram offerent
is translated as

    "Kings shall come from Sheba.
    They shall offer gold, frankincense and myrrh."

Editor's Note:

This version by Rickert is a modernized version of that found in Richard Greene, ed., A Selection of English Carols (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1962), #29, pp. 87-90.


Versions of this song on this web site:


See note: Now Is Christmas Ycome

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